Orange County urges reporting possible wildlife attacks

mschultz@newsobserver.comFebruary 21, 2014 

  • Helpful numbers

    • To report a physical encounter with a wild animal, call the Orange County Animal Services Department at 919-942-7387.

    • For questions about a potential human exposure, contact a communicable disease nurse at the Orange County Health Department at 919-245-2400.

    • If you see a coyote engaged in threatening or dangerous activity, call 911. Habituated coyotes that have lost their natural wariness of people should be reported to Animal Services at 919-942-7387, and all incidents involving coyotes should be reported to on the department’s website at bit.ly/1eaWJS2.

— Two small dogs fatally injured by unknown animals could have been attacked by other dogs, as well as the possibility of coyotes, the county’s animal services director says.

The cases came in through the county’s coyote incident link on the Animal Services Department website, director Bob Marotto said. That led county officials to this week to remind residents to report any injured or missing pets that may have been attacked by wild animals.

But in an interview Thursday, Marotto stressed that the county has no proof that coyotes attacked the two dogs – one found dead and the other euthanized after being taken to the family’s veterinarian and the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“For all we know, these dogs could have been harmed by other dogs,” Marotto said.

Coyote sightings have become more common in the Triangle. In Orange County, the animals have been seen in and around Carrboro, the Carolina North Forest, Hillsborough and in rural areas. The county held a standing-room only meeting last year at the Animal Services Center on Eubanks Road to educate people about how to co-exist with coyotes.

Part of the reason Marotto wants people to report even possible coyote incidents is so the department can track and collect data regarding wildlife attacks. Another reason is so health care officials can speak with residents about possible rabies exposure and any steps they may need to take.

No coyote cases

Although coyotes can get rabies, the state did not record any rabid coyotes in 2013.

There were 4,314 animals tested for the potentially fatal virus last year, 91.8 percent of them wild animals, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Of all the animals tested, 380 had rabies, including raccoons (204), foxes (62), skunks (55) and bats (28).

Orange County had 13 confirmed rabies cases last year.

Marotto says in both recent dog attacks, the dogs were running loose. There was no witness to either attack, but coyotes were seen in the area, leading the owners to report the incidents on the county’s coyote incident weblink, bit.ly/1eaWJS2

Both incidents occurred in Chapel Hill, but Marotto did not know exactly where. One pet owner did not fill out contact information, which has since prompted the county to make that a required field, he said.

Co-existence

Marotto said he has seen only one coyote in the county, north of Hillsborough, and that for many people, they are a welcome natural sight.

Last year’s talk, by a humane society educator, emphasized that coyotes are found throughout the country, help keep the deer population down and are hard to eliminate, reproducing in higher numbers when hunted.

Instead of killing the animals, the county recommends keeping pets indoors, removing things like outdoor pet food that attract them, and “hazing” any coyotes that come too close by shouting and waving your arms.

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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