Hearing or seeing more coyotes these days? You’re not alone, say biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. According to them, it is common for North Carolinians to report seeing and hearing coyotes more often in October and November.
Fall is the time of year when young coyotes — those born in early spring — are leaving their parents’ territory to find a mate and establish their own territory. Young coyotes often travel with their siblings during this time and can travel long distances — upward of 300 miles before settling down into their own territories.
During these wanderings, their characteristic yipping, howling and barking often can be heard as they keep track of each other, as well as other coyotes whose territories they are passing through. Because of the hollow tone of the howl, two coyotes often sound like a huge group and may seem closer than they actually are.
Contrary to popular belief, hearing a coyote howl does not mean it has just taken down prey, although some people do find their howls unnerving. Fortunately, hearing or seeing a coyote, even during the day, is usually no cause for alarm.
“Coyotes rarely attack humans,” said Falyn Owens, the agency’s extension biologist. “Coyotes are curious, but wary whenever they are near humans; however, they can become bold and habituated to humans if people feed them, either purposely or unintentionally.
For this reason, Owens recommends that people follow several tips to keep coyotes, and other wildlife such as raccoons, from being attracted to their homes:
* Secure garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids; take trash out the morning of pickup
* Keep bird seed off the ground and bird feeding areas clean
* Remove fallen fruit from trees
* Feed pets indoors or remove food when a pet is finished eating outside
Because coyotes view outdoor cats and small, unleashed dogs as a potential food source, people should keep their pets inside, leashed or inside a dog-proof fence at all times.
By having no unnatural food attractants available, coyotes are more likely to stay wary of people and avoid them and their homes. Additional tactics can help them actively avoid certain areas.
“Hazing, or standing your ground and scaring the animal off can be an good way to ensure these wild animals develop or maintain a healthy fear of humans,” Owens said. “You can effectively intimidate a coyote by throwing small objects toward it, making loud noises, or spraying it with a water hose. Keep it up until the coyote leaves.”
While native to the mid-western section of North America, coyotes have expanded their range into the eastern United States and are now established in all 100 counties of North Carolina.
Coyotes can be hunted year-round and can be trapped during the statewide regulated trapping season (Nov. 1 through end of Feb.).
For more information about coyotes in North Carolina, visit the Wildlife Commission’s coyote page on its website (www.ncwildlife.org/coyote), or call the Commission’s N.C. Wildlife Helpline toll-free at 866-318-2401. The call center is open Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.