Published: Sep 08, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Sep 08, 2012 10:14 AM
It has to be unnerving to see a coyote staring you down or trotting along behind you as you walk your dog.
They are predators, after all, and modern civilization seldom gives us occasion to bump into sharp-toothed wild creatures of any size, outside of video games. We don’t doubt that an encounter with a coyote might put a scare into you.
So we sympathize with those folks in Carrboro who have had precisely that experience recently.
Coyotes have lived around here for a long time, but they are shy and elusive predators by nature and until recently almost no one ever saw them.
In recent weeks, though, increasing numbers of people have reported coyote sightings, most of them in the vicinity of Hogan Farm between downtown Carrboro and Calvander.
At least one of the Carrboro coyotes – it’s not clear whether everybody is seeing the same one – has reportedly shown little fear of humans and, according to some residents, has stood its ground rather than fleeing, the way a typical wild coyote would.
Wildlife experts say coyotes that become habituated to people are the potentially troublesome ones. Coyotes are intelligent and opportunistic animals, and they will happily help themselves to pet food left outside, food waste left in accessible trash cans and other freebies.
Too much of that and they lose their fear of us. That’s not good for either party.
Lots of folks consider coyotes pests, of course, and it’s not uncommon to hear people say they ought to be shot (perhaps less common in Carrboro, where guns are even less popular than coyotes).
That kind of extreme reaction is not only overly harsh but, in all likelihood, ineffective; usually, if one coyote is removed, others simply move in to fill the vacuum.
Far better to learn to coexist with them. We can discourage habituation and minimize contact by making our homes less attractive to a coyote. Especially if you live in an area where coyotes have been seen, don’t leave pet food outside. Make sure trash is securely covered. Close off crawlspaces or other cozy den-like areas around your property. Keep pooch on a leash, and bring Fluffy inside at night.
And try to keep in mind a number of things: Coyotes eat all manner of things, including fawns, and if there’s anything we definitely have too many of around here, it’s deer.
Even a coyote who is checking you out is almost certainly just curious. If one gets too close for comfort, scare it off: Yell, clap, wave your arms.
Coyotes are found in all 100 counties in North Carolina; when we wiped out their natural predators, the wolves and cougars, we left the door open for the coyote. Yet despite their ubiquity, they very rarely cause problems.
By contrast, more than 4 million dog bites occur every years in the U.S. You are far, far more likely to be bitten by the dog you’re walking than by the coyote watching you walk.
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