As the days get warmer and longer, contact with wildlife will begin to steadily increase. A major concern in Orange County over the past few years has been coyotes, and they too will begin to appear more as the season changes.
Last year, Orange County Animal Services created an online coyote incident reporting form, and 45 reports were made, covering everything from hearing a coyote to sighting one in person. Animal Services has mapped these reported incidents and we are quite interested in seeing how 2015 compares to 2014 in terms of the number and type of reports and people’s own behaviors.
Several noteworthy patterns emerged from the 45 reports. Almost half of the reports were from the towns, reflecting an increasing presence of coyotes in the more settled parts of the county. This may reflect less reporting rather than fewer coyotes outside the towns, and/or that rural residents are more accustomed to dealing with coyotes.
Eight reports concerned contact between coyotes and other animals. Reports about dogs almost all involved loose or unleashed dogs. A number of reports were made by residents who believed coyotes were responsible for the disappearance of their own and others’ cats. Interestingly, they almost all indicated that there was not a food source for coyotes. It thus appears that even when outdoor cats are believed to be consumed by coyotes, owners are still not fully connecting that a cat is a readily available food source for coyotes if left outside.
Another interesting fact is that people who encountered coyotes seldom used hazing tactics to scare them away. Hazing involves making loud noises and/or large body movements in order to stop coyotes from becoming too comfortable around people. Wildlife professionals strongly recommend hazing so that coyotes don’t lose their fear of humans.
In the kind of circumstances reported in 2014, killing coyotes is a last resort that only needs to be considered if proper hazing activities do not begin in time. In addition, it is often not an effective solution as coyotes will innately increase their numbers by having larger litters when their numbers begin to decrease.
Animal Services strongly encourages those that have an encounter with coyotes to use the online reporting form unless the incident is life threatening. In those cases, 911 should be called and the incident reported online after immediate safety is ensured. Remembering to report all incidents not only helps in gathering data about the contact people have with coyotes in Orange County but provides immediate feedback about the steps that can be taken to avert serious problems sooner rather than later in a specific neighborhood. People who make a report are directly contacted by someone from Animal Services and they also receive additional help from the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission when needed.
Be sure to visit the Animal Services website at http://nando.com/1bq for more information, including the coyote incident reporting form and resources on recommended hazing tactics. By sharing these resources and learning from our own experiences over time, it is hoped that Orange County residents can achieve a safe and healthy balance between wildlife and growing populations.
Robert A. Marotto is the Orange County Animal Services director. Andi Morgan is the Animal Services communication specialist.