Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is a Raleigh coyote growing too accustomed to humans?

These photographs taken of a coyote here in Raleigh arrived in my inbox on Monday. They were taken recently near Umstead State Park by a woman with a wildlife background who has worked as a national park ranger. She was walking her dog at dusk, camera in tow, when she spotted the coyote ahead of them. They ran to catch up with the animal, and when it paused for a moment she managed to capture these shots:

The photographer, who does not wish to be identified, says she's been seeing what she believes is the same animal for years, though at first she mistook it for a fox. She writes:
Last spring, we startled it in brush, then it came out into open 15' feet from us (me and dog), just stood there and stared us down. (You aren't supposed to stare at wild dogs/coyotes etc btw--it's a sign of aggression.) At first I was afraid it was rabid, but then decided it was too rational and actions too stable. So we moved forward. It stayed 15-20' from us, then moved in a playful way, like it was trying to get my dog to play. It even laid down, the way cats do when they want something to play. I knew fox did that sort of thing but didn't know about coyotes did. Finally, we turned away--something you aren't supposed to do--and it followed us. Right out into the open. I didn't know if it wanted to play or mate with dog--or have him for dinner. I tried making noise, talking to it etc; it kept distance but wouldn't scare off. While I could see it had the markings of a coyote, I convinced myself it was a lonely stray dog or a coyote-hybrid because of its behavior.
Last evening, while walking her dog in the same area, the photographer was approached by another woman walking a small dog who wanted to warn her about the "coyote or wild dog" that she said had chased them. The second woman said the animal had barked and refused to back off -- even when she threw rocks at it. She was terrified.

After writing about my own sighting of a shy coyote in Umstead some years ago, I have heard from readers about other encounters in and around the park. One person reported being followed by a coyote while jogging along a trail, another commenter took this gorgeous photo of a coyote crossing a stream in the park, and another spotted a coyote while canoeing through the area.

The photographer who I heard from this week now finds herself in a quandary: On the one hand, she's worried that this particular animal has lost its fear of humans and could possibly attack someone (or someone's dog). But on the other hand, she's also worried that making a big fuss over the sightings could result in a war being declared on all coyotes in the area -- even those who are minding their own business, not to mention filling a critical role in our ecosystem.

In an effort to live peacefully with the coyotes in our midst, here are some common-sense tips on preventing conflicts from the Department of Environmental Conservation in New York, where the Eastern coyote is well-established:

* Do not feed coyotes.
* If you see a coyote, be aggressive in your behavior -- make loud noises, wave your arms, throw sticks and stones.
* Do not allow pets to run free.
* Do not feed pets outside.
* Make any garbage inaccessible to coyotes and other animals.
* Eliminate availability of bird seed. Coyotes are attracted to the concentration of birds and rodents that come to feeders. If you do feed birds, clean up waste seed and spillage.
* Fencing your yard may deter coyotes. The fence should be tight to the ground, preferably extending six inches below ground level.
* Remove brush and tall grass from around your property to reduce protective cover for coyotes.
* Teach children to appreciate coyotes from a distance.
* Regulated hunting and trapping increases the "fear" coyotes have towards people.
* Ask your neighbors to follow these same steps.

And keep in mind that running away from a coyote is behaving like prey. That can be very dangerous.

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At Tuesday, August 26, 2008 11:24:00 AM, Blogger ih8gates said...

Earlier this month, Team Lump posted some Coyote pics taken at the Museum of Art.


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