Expect increased coyote activity now through March

Coyote. [Courtesy Town of Kill Devil Hills]

Coyote mating season is underway, meaning Outer Banks residents may see an increased presence from now through March, the Town of Nags Head said in a recent Facebook post.

“You can do your part to prevent conflicts with these animals, such as feeding your pets indoors,” the town wrote.

According to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the coyote is native only in North America and, of all wild canine species, the coyote has the widest range in this country.

“This predator is arguably the hardiest and most adaptable species on this continent,” the commission writes on its website.

Coyotes in North Carolina look similar to red wolves, but coyotes are smaller, have pointed and erect ears, and long slender snouts. The tail is long, bushy and black-tipped and is usually carried pointing down.

The coyote is classified as a carnivore, but it is an opportunistic feeder, meaning it will feed on a variety of food sources, depending on what is most readily available and easy to obtain. Primary foods include fruit, berries, rodents, rabbits, birds, snakes, frogs, and insects. They will scavenge on animal remains, including road-kill, as well as garbage and pet food left outdoors.

Despite reputation, coyote attacks on people, including children, are extremely rare, the commission says.

Normal coyote behavior is to be curious, but wary, when close to humans. Like other wildlife, they will become bold and habituated if people feed them, either purposely or inadver- tently, such as with garbage or outdoor pet food. They rarely contract rabies.

Coyotes can pose a threat to pets, however, as they view outdoor cats and small unleashed dogs as prey, while larger dogs are viewed as threats to their territory and/or their pups.

“Coyotes are most likely to confront larger dogs during the mating and pup birthing period, January through June,” the commission says.

Simply seeing a coyote is not cause for concern. If you see a coyote frequently, you and your neighbors should take steps to prevent conflicts with it and other wildlife.

To prevent problems with coyotes:

  • Secure garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids, and take them out in the morning of pick up, not the night before. Coyotes and other wildlife will scavenge trash.
  • Don’t feed or try to pet coyotes. Feeding a coyote rewards it for coming in close proximity to people.
  • Once a coyote be- comes habituated, it loses its natural wariness of people and
    may become bold and aggressive.
  • Protect your pets by keeping them inside, leashed, or inside a fenced area.
  • Install coyote-proof fencing around your home to protect unsupervised pets.
  • Feed pets indoors or remove food when your pet is finished eating outside. Coyotes and other wildlife are attracted to pet food left outdoors.
  • Keep bird-feeder areas clean. Use bird feeders that keep seed off the ground. Coyotes are attracted to small animals congregating on the ground. If coyotes are frequently seen,
    remove all feeders.
  • Don’t be intimidated by a coyote. Maintain its wariness by throwing a small object, such as a tennis ball, at it, making a loud noise or spraying it with a hose. Let it know it is unwelcome near your home.

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