By CALVIN ADKINS
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
If you saw a four-legged animal that you thought looked like a coyote strolling around the countryside, chances are it was a coyote.
Recently, coyote sightings in Edgecombe County have become a norm. Capt. Matt Long, District 3 N.C. Wildlife Commission, said the coyote population is expanding all across the state. The mammals were once found only in the southwestern and western portion of North America.
Coyotes are typically dark gray, but can range from blonde, red, and even black. Size is also variable, but averages about 2 feet tall at the shoulder and 4 feet in length. Adults are about the size of a medium-sized dog and weigh between 20 and 45 pounds.
According to the Wildlife Commission website, by the 1980s coyotes started to appear in western North Carolina as a result of natural range expansion from neighboring states. Coyotes are now established in all 100 counties of North Carolina and live in many towns.
Tarboro animal control officer Louis Britt, said residents have reported coyote sightings and also their unnerving howls in the Clifton Ridge Community. One resident reported a couple of her cats missing. Britt did not speculate on whether the coyotes had anything to do with the missing felines.
There have been rumors that coyotes were behind missing livestock in the county, but Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight said there have not been reports of that nature filed with his office.
Coyotes feed off small animals. Their primary foods include fruit, berries, rodents, rabbits, birds, snakes, frogs, and insects. They will also scavenge on animal remains, including road-kill.
Another food source includes scraps from the garbage containers and pet food left outdoors. Britt urged residents to remove leftover pet food from outside and clear scraps from their garbage.
Although the coyote may have the appearance of a ravaged beast, Long said they are not aggressive towards people. Attacks on people, including children are extremely rare.
"When they see people, they are usually running away from them," he said. "They are scared of people."
Long said the Wildlife Commission doesn't know how many coyotes are in Edgecombe County. He said they mostly travel alone or in groups of twos. "Threes are usually a crowd," he said.
"They are here and they are here to stay," Long said. "They have a right to be here, therefore we must do our part to manage them."
And if you see one, Long said, just be happy that you saw it because everybody doesn't get the opportunity to see wild animals.
N.C. Wildlife Commission tips to prevent coyotes problems
• 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 be-
comes 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 preventing Conflicts with Coyotes seed off the ground. Coyotes are attracted to small animals congregating on the ground. If coyotes are frequently seen, 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.