Coyotes not new to the area
by Staff Writer
by Frank DeLoache
CORNELIUS – State wildlife officials have told Cornelius leaders the area around the McDowell Creek Greenway is large enough to support as many as 50 coyotes, but town officials haven’t settled on a plan for addressing their presence.
“Since we are early in learning about this issue, we are trying to determine what is the most appropriate way to deal with the coyote population,” Mayor Jeff Tarte said in an email to the Herald Wednesday, June 8. “We obviously need to consider what the experts tell us. It is disconcerting to think the best remedy might be to simply leave them alone. Personally, my choice would be to relocate the coyotes to a safe habitat outside of Cornelius.”
Last week, Cornelius police sent out a phone-message alert, warning residents that a woman had spotted several coyotes while walking her dog on the greenway, which stretches about 1 1/2 miles from the back of Birkdale Village in Huntersville to Westmoreland Road.
Police Chief Bence Hoyle said his staff has consulted with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
“The gist of the conversation we had with Wildlife was that if the ecosystem could support 50 coyotes, it likely would – and that area is certainly capable of supporting that many,” Hoyle said in an email to the Herald. “If you remove or kill some, they will quickly repopulate. We don’t have a count, of course, or any way to estimate it, but they are certainly in there and likely have been for some time.
“We did find through some online research that as many as 2,000 coyotes live in heavily urban Chicago proper, and coyotes thrive in every state and suburban area and are indigenous to this area.”
So far, the police department has limited its response to notifying residents of the coyotes’ presence.
“The reason we have limited our response is because 1) the area where we saw them was outside the Town of Cornelius and, 2) based on the information we gathered, we don’t feel like we can have an effect on the populations,” Hoyle wrote. “We did, and still do, feel that we should notify residents the best we can, but we don’t believe we can eliminate every coyote in the area. We can’t relocate them. We are not trained or equipped for that, so our options are shooting them or making people aware.”
At a town board breakfast meeting Monday, June 6, Commissioner Jim Bensman said he’s concerned about coyotes threats to domestic pets. “What if my dog chases a squirrel into the woods and runs into a coyote?” he asked Tarte more than once.
Interjected Commissioner Lynette Rinker: “They’ll take cats in a heartbeat.”
For now, Hoyle said he doesn’t think residents should be leery of using the greenway, “but to be aware that we share that greenway with wildlife, some of which are predators” that might grab small pets if they have the opportunity.
“I would not hesitate to use the greenways, but a noisemaker of some kind, pepper spray or some kind of walking stick and a leash for pets are all good, reasonable choices,” Hoyle said. Residents should call 911 “if they are threatened or if they see a coyote walking through the neighborhood, but if they just see one on the greenway that is doing what coyotes do, I wouldn’t think a call is necessary.”
Hoyle said his staff has learned a lot about coyotes in a short period of time.
“Experts we talked to say they have always been in there,” he wrote in the email. “We just introduced people to their habitat. There will likely be the occasional confrontation, and certainly people should be aware of that, but there is likely not a greenway in the country that does not see a coyote paw print from time to time, including those in urban areas.
“In the future, if we have a ‘rogue’ animal in a neighborhood or something similar, we will certainly respond. However, to date there has been no success anywhere I know of to separate them from their natural habitat.”
Preventing Conflicts with Coyotes
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission offers these tips to homeowners 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 becomes 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 a homeowner sees coyotes frequently, remove all feeders.
• Close off crawl spaces under sheds and porches. Coyotes and other wildlife may use these spaces for resting and raising young.
• Cut back brushy edges in your yard, which provide cover for coyotes.
• 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.
• Clear fallen fruit from around fruit trees.
• Educate your neighbors. Your efforts to prevent coyote conflicts will be less effective if some neighbors are still providing foods.