“Living With Coyotes!”

fbsep2016_img_9062They are here and live among us! Although we do not rehabilitate the Coyote due to North Carolina Wildlife Commission regulations, we do receive calls at the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport on sightings and inquiries regarding how to coexist with this wild animal that looks and sounds so much like a dog. The Coyote is a member of the dog family and is native to California but has made its way across the United States during the past two decades creating the widest range of all wild canine species found in our country. It is considered the hardiest and most adaptable species found in North America. There is much to be said about the Coyote and not all of it is pleasant or positive, but we wildlife rehabilitators recognize the Coyote as a living being just trying to get by with lessening habitat and minimal means. So let’s take a look at the Coyote and assess how we can maintain a healthy and safe environment for our family (including our pets) and our livestock and property knowing a coyote family may be living close by. From a distance (and distance is a key word here – always keep your distance) you might think you’re seeing a dog while in reality that 20 – 45 pound canine with pointed and erect ears and a long, slender snout with a bushy, black tipped tail is a Coyote. Their gorgeous fur and coloring is typically dark gray but can also be blonde, reddish and sometimes black. They stand about 2 feet tall at the shoulder and 4 feet in length. Males are usually heavier than females. Mating occurs in February and five to ten pups are born in April or May. fbsep2016_coyote6pupThey will nurse for about 10 weeks, then begin hunting training with Mom and Dad who will provide them “catches of the day,” and at 7 to 8 months they will leave their parents. The American Indians call coyotes “song dogs” because they have a high-pitched, yodel like yapping sound that can travel up to 3 miles or more and is very similar to that of a domestic dog, hence the scientific name “Canis Latrans” which means “barking dog.” Coyotes in North Carolina look similar to red wolves, but coyotes are smaller.fbsep2016_coyote8 The Coyote is generally a carnivore but also an opportunistic feeder, so it will feed on a variety of food sources; usually that which is easiest to obtain. Garbage, road kill and pet food left outdoors are not out of the question. However, they prefer rodents such as mice and rats which make up 80% of their diet. On a positive note, the Coyote provides “natural” rodent control which is always preferred over the use of poisons. Coyotes also eat insects and have saved many farms from insect take-overs. Fruit, berries, rabbits, birds, snakes and frogs are found on the Coyotes menu as well. They are active during the day and night but usually more at day break and when the sun goes down. Highly territorial, coyotes will run off any non-family members to protect their claimed land and hunting grounds, and they are year’round hunters, so they do not hibernate. Their exceptional senses of smell, vision and hearing lend to their successful methods of finding food. Because the coyote can adjust so well to changing environments, its habitat can range from meadows and fields to an urban setting. You may recall the story of a coyote found sleeping in a subway car in New York City last year. That tells us coyotes have adjusted to human presence and although still a shy animal, may not be as afraid of people as we’d like them to be. We might need to remind them that hanging around two legged human animals is not a good thing. To coexist safely with coyotes please review and apply these 15 guidelines: 1) Never feed coyotes and discourage other people from doing so. 2) Do not allow your pets to roam free (they may appear as potential food items, cats and small dogs are prime targets). 3) Do not leave pet food outside. 4) Make your garbage inaccessible to all wild animals. 5) Manage your bird feeding station. Spilled seed attracts rodents who in turn attract coyotes. 6) Don’t allow coyotes to approach people (especially small children) or pets. Be aggressive in your behavior by standing tall, waving your arms, making loud noises and throwing rocks or sticks. Do not run from them; you will look like prey. 7) Fencing your yard is helpful if your home is adjacent to known coyote presence. The fence should be taller than 4 feet and extend 6 inches into the ground. 8) The brush and grass around your property should be kept short to eliminate protective cover for secretive coyotes. fbsep2016_coyote4 9) If you have chickens or ducks, make sure they are locked in the coops at night. Your rabbit hutch should have a solid bottom (rather than wire). 10) If you have horses, cattle, pigs, sheep or alpacas, you might want to think about adding a few donkeys or llamas to the mix. Research tells us there is an innate hatred between coyotes and donkeys to the point where the donkey gets the upper hand! Llamas have been known to kick coyote butt, as well. Farmers who have enlisted the help of donkeys or llamas state a huge decrease in coyote presence and some say, “not even a sighting.” 11) Close off crawl spaces that could become a great place for a Momma coyote to raise her young. 12) If you have fruit trees, pick fruit as it ripens and remove over-ripened fruit from the ground. 13) If your coyotes become bold and exhibit no fear of people, you need to call the nearest Wildlife Control Officer for assistance. 14) DO NOT attempt to pet a coyote. Keep them wild and away! 15) Please pass these tips on to your neighbors. Due to the loss of natural habitat by development, coyotes, commonly referred to as ‘Top Dog’ these days, are forced to cohabitate with humans, but please keep in mind, coyotes contribute many benefits to our ecosystem and our quality of life in general. Although humans are the coyote’s fiercest enemy, coyotes certainly do humans more good than harm. They are intelligent and adaptable creatures that are interesting to observe and photograph in the wild, helpful to farmers, ranchers and gardeners by decreasing insect and rodent numbers thereby keeping the balance of nature in order and they, in general, are not nearly as dangerous as domestic dogs when it comes to reported canine attacks; statistics prove that. It may very well be possible to live in harmony with the coyote who like us just wants a safe place to live and raise their family. fbsep2016_coyotewithpup2However, in most potentially troubling situations where lack of knowledge is key, education will be the solution to our coexistence. Stay safe and out of trouble, “Top Dog!”

Best Always,

Linda Bergman-Althouse

author of “Save Them All

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