Coyotes have now made their presence known in all 100 counties of North Carolina. Now and then I’ve heard a coyote howl at night, and a couple months ago I spotted one running across our rural road during the day. I’d always heard that coyotes are timid and fearful of humans, so I’ve never been particularly concerned about their presence.
However, last Friday night I heard the alarming yips and howls of a pack of coyotes when I was walking one of our dogs down our driveway. The coyotes sounded like they were in the woods across the road from our house. Their eerie yips and howls pierced the air and sent shivers down my spine. I wasn’t sure how they would behave in a pack; however, I’d heard they could bring down a white-tailed deer. I knew that some of our farming neighbors kept donkeys in their pastures to discourage roaming coyotes from attacking young calves. Apparently, the donkeys don’t hesitate to sound a braying alarm and to kick the intruders. That night I chose not to wait around and convinced Beau that we needed to jog back to the house.
Since then, I have researched coyote behavior. I discovered that if I observed any coyotes, I should have used a technique called hazing. It involves making a lot of noise by shouting, whistling, clapping hands, shaking a sealed soda can containing pebbles, and throwing small rocks or sticks with the intention of scaring off the coyotes. Once the alpha male is frightened off, the rest of the pack will follow. If the coyotes stand and stare, I should back away slowly while still making noise. Running is the last action to take. Coyotes will naturally chase after you.
Like many other animals, the coyotes’ habitat and food sources are diminishing. Normally, they are content eating various rodents like mice, voles, and rabbits, as well as snakes, frogs, birds, insects, and plants. If pet food is left out on a porch, or a garbage can is easily accessible, a coyote will take advantage of these alternative food sources. Coyotes are opportunistic. Some will acclimate to being around people, which is not desirable.
Although our dogs are the size of a large coyote, 40-50 pounds, we’ll be letting our dogs run around in our fenced in back yard instead of taking any more night walks. It’s better to play it safe then to risk an unpleasant encounter.