Data collected by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission about human-coyote interactions in 2017 suggest North Carolinians may expect to see — and hear — coyotes with greater frequency in October and November.
“Biologically this makes sense. In the fall we see young, ‘teenaged’ coyotes leaving their parents’ territory to find a mate and establish a territory of their own,” said Falyn Owens, extension wildlife biologist with the Commission. “Early in their wanderings, young coyotes often travel with their siblings, and their characteristic yipping, howling and barking may be heard as they keep track of each other, and other coyotes whose territories they are passing through.”
These data are part of a larger dataset of human-wildlife interactions reported to the Commission through its Wildlife Interaction Hotline since early 2017. Reports range from positive wildlife experiences and sightings to complaints. The Commission uses this information to guide outreach and management efforts.
In 2017, the greatest number of coyote-related reports occurred during the fall, with most reports coming from Wake (18), Mecklenburg (16) and Gaston (15) counties in the October-November timeframe. Coyotes are common in all 100 counties in North Carolina, but these areas are densely populated, so the chances of someone seeing a coyote are increased.
“Young, dispersing coyotes can travel remarkable distances — upward of 300 miles — before settling into their own territory,” Owens said. “That’s like walking from Asheville to Jacksonville. These young individuals are exploring new ground, so they’re more likely to be noticed by people.”
Human-Coyote Interactions Reported to Commission
During the 2017 peak for coyote reports (October-November), the Commission received the most reports from the following counties:
Coyotes usually are wary of people and avoid human contact, according to Owens. Hazing, or standing your ground and shouting, waving, or throwing small objects can be an effective way to ensure these wild animals develop and maintain a healthy fear of humans.
“Coyote attacks on people are rare,” Owens said. “The highest risk from coyotes in neighborhoods is associated with unsupervised small pets — especially outdoor cats — so we advise people to keep their cats indoors and their dogs, particularly small dogs, on a leash when outside, or in a fenced area.”
To deter coyotes and other undesired wildlife from residential areas, Owens suggested removing food attractants such as unsecured garbage, pet food and bird feeders.
“In the absence of attractants, they will likely still pass through the area, but won’t make themselves at home,” Owens said. “Combined with active hazing, this can send the message to coyotes that they are unwelcome. You can effectively intimidate a coyote by throwing small objects toward it, making loud noises, or spraying it with a water hose.”
Wary and Wily Coyotes — What You Should Know
Other suggestions to prevent conflicts with coyotes include:
- Use trash and recycling bins that have tight-fitting lids or lids that can be secured;
- Feed pets indoors or remove food when your pet is finished eating outside;
- Use bird feeders that keep seed off the ground and clean the area when birdseed accumulates on the ground;
- Clear brush along the edges of your yard;
- Remove fallen fruit from around fruit trees; and,
- Educate your neighbors about coyotes and best practices to minimize conflicts with them.
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.