RALEIGH — Sightings of coyotes are expected to peak this month as the generally elusive animals ramp up their activity to find food for their newborn pups, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reports.
Coyotes, which are found in all 100 counties of North Carolina, prefer to build their dens away from human activity, but can still come in contact with people. As coyotes wander in search of food, which can include wild fruit, small mammals and this year’s increased number of nutritious cicadas, they can enter residential areas, especially if food is plentiful.
Coyotes will take advantage of pet food left outdoors, food scraps and other nutritious tidbits around homes. Smaller pets, such as cats and small-breed dogs, should always be closely supervised when outdoors, as they can easily be mistaken for natural prey.
Dog-proof fencing, which is at least 6-foot tall and prevents digging underneath, is the only guarantee to keep coyotes out.
There also are other ways to keep them from hanging around.
“You must remove anything that could attract coyotes and actively make the area uncomfortable for them,” says Falyn Owens, an extension biologist for the commission.
Owens offers these tips to deter coyotes:
Remove all outdoor pet food, fallen fruit, food waste and bird feeders.
Keep cats and small dogs on a leash or harness whenever they’re outside.
Haze coyotes away from homes and businesses. Hazing can be as simple as waving arms, shouting forcefully, spraying them with a water hose or throwing small rocks in their direction until the coyote leaves.
In more remote areas where a coyote pair might have a den, hazing likely won’t be effective.
“Coyotes will closely watch people who come near their den or pups. So if you are passing through a brushy or wooded area and notice a coyote watching you or even following you at a distance, there may be a den nearby,” Owens said. “In this case, leave calmly and inform others to avoid the area for a few weeks. Coyotes use dens like a crib for protecting their newborn pups, and as soon as the pups can survive outside of the den, the coyotes will abandon it.”
Coyotes rarely attack people, preferring to avoid them entirely or keep a distance. People walking a small dog in which a coyote seems to take interest should pick up the dog and act threateningly toward it. A coyote is an opportunistic hunter and prefers an easy meal over one that puts it at risk.