“They are not going away,” Lincoln County Animal Control Officer Robert Maxwell told the Times-News Thursday about coyotes infiltrating the area.
The state’s first coyote spotting occurred in Gaston County in the 1930s, but the species has since permeated all 100 North Carolina counties, according to a Fox and Coyote Populations Study published last month by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
As a result, Animal Control officers are providing residents with information both on coyote safety precautions and hunting laws.
“People need to be aware of their (coyote) presence and learn to deal with them,” Maxwell said. “The more people are familiar with their habits and watch for them is the best protection you can get.”
He noted that coyotes have recently attacked domestic animals and livestock in the county and are known to mate with dogs, creating a breed known as a “coy dog.”
If residents remain unaware of the issue, the problem will only worsen, he added. In addition to small outdoor cats and dogs, animal control officers advised citizens to keep watch over their young children while they play outside.
“There have been cases where coyotes have attacked young children and even adults,” Maxwell said. “So beware!” In addition, officers noted that the area’s newest wild animal is largely attracted to high-pitched noises and frequencies similar to that of babies and children. He also suggested that people stop dumping animal food, trash and other scraps outside that might lure unwanted wild animals.
“Coyotes are more active this time of year due to the new born pups and the mother and father coyotes hunting to feed the whole family,” Maxwell said.
He noted that the wild animal’s nature is aggressive and will instinctively “kill fast.”
“If you see a Coyote, stay away,” he noted. “It’s a wild animal…not a regular dog.”
As housing populations expand, coyotes find themselves unable to effectively hide, making human contact with them more likely, officers warned.
Laurie Beal, Lincoln County resident and certified wildlife rehabber with the N.C. Wildlife Federation, said she receives an average of two to three calls weekly and four calls last week regarding coyote sightings.
“It’s like they’re moving in,” she said.
Maxwell, a coyote hunter, knows first-hand the potential dangers Lincoln County residents face with an increase in coyote populations.
He said coyotes are characterized as either Western or Eastern, and unfortunately, the (eastern) type inhabiting North Carolina has been known for its larger size.
“I have personally seen Eastern coyotes weigh as much as 55 pounds,” he said. “There are a lot of them in Lincoln County.”
Current state law allows individuals to hunt coyotes year-round six days a week and on private property. In addition, hunters must maintain both a license and landowner’s written permission, Maxwell said.
It’s against the law, however, to hunt coyotes at night with lights, but that law may soon be changing, according to Carolyn Rickard, spokesperson for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
On Thursday, the Commission took additional steps toward allowing coyote hunting at night, and according to a press release on the Commission website, several new regulations will be implemented later this year. Rickard said that pending approval by the Rules Review Commission, the regulations will go into effect Aug. 1.
According to the release, hunters with appropriate permits will be able to use light to track both coyotes and feral swine on public lands 30 minutes before sunset until 30 minutes prior to sunrise.
“Night hunting is one means of controlling localized populations of coyotes and feral swine, both of which are non-native to North Carolina and destructive to the landscape,” the release stated.
Coyotes may also be trapped in all N.C. counties during furbearer seasons and open season for fox trapping. Often times, depredation permits are handed out to farmers who wish to trap coyotes outside of open season to prevent property damage or public safety threats, the N.C. Wildlife Commission website stated.
Coyotes are “arguably the hardiest and most adaptable species on this continent,” and “while naturally wary of people,” have the tendency to adjust to humans either in “the absence of threats” or where any kind of pet food or other garbage is present, the Commission’s population report said.
The species also has the ability to largely scatter in a short amount of time, exceeding 200 miles in a matter of months. The Commission website pointed out that once one set of coyotes trickles out of a suburban neighborhood, another set trickles in, making it difficult for experts to both calculate and control the population.
For more information, visit ncwildlife.org.