Editorial: Welcome coyotes | Editorials
That howl you can hear at night when the sky darkens isn’t so much about Halloween or political disappointment as it is about wildlife and urban sprawl. This is the time of year when young coyotes leave their parents to establish their own homes, according to a press release from the NC Wildlife Resource Commission. They yell or bark at each other, basically, to say, “I’m over there.”
And as their options have been limited by the encroachment of human development, more of them are exploring and perhaps settling in the forests and green spaces that connect our neighborhoods. So we’re likely to hear and see more than before.
But if some may find their songs and their presence disturbing, there is no need to be alarmed. With a minimum of forethought, we can coexist, as we did decades and centuries ago.
Coyotes are canids, like dogs, and have thick reddish to dark gray fur. They have a long, slender muzzle, bushy tail, and pointy ears and can weigh up to 45 pounds. They are considered an invasive species, having first moved to North Carolina in the 1980s from neighboring states.
There is no official tally on how many people live in our area, but there are about 50,000 spread across North Carolina’s 100 counties, according to American Military News. As they search for unclaimed territory, they can travel up to 300 miles before settling.
They look for good hunting grounds, where they can find lots of rabbits, insects and ground squirrels, and safe neighborhoods to mingle. Coyotes are social animals.
They are opportunistic hunters and can feast on a cat or small dog if given the chance. They can also eat the food of thrown people.
So it’s a good idea to be aware of their presence and help them avoid temptation.
To make our homes and neighborhoods less attractive to coyotes, the Wildlife Commission recommends that we do the following:
Watch for small animals when they are outside, especially at dawn and dusk.
Keep cats indoors and poultry in a predator-proof enclosure.
Feed animals indoors or remove all food when an animal has finished eating outdoors.
Store food waste in secure containers with tight-fitting lids.
Keep birdseed off the ground around feeders or choose to attract birds with native plants.
People should never feed coyotes, even with the best of intentions. “Like other wildlife, they will become bold and habituated if people feed them, either intentionally or inadvertently, such as with garbage or outdoor pet food,” the Wildlife Commission said.
“The normal behavior of the coyote is to be curious, but wary, when it is close to humans,” reports the Wildlife Commission.
The best thing to do if you are approached by a coyote is to make a lot of noise, the commission advises. Scream, click, clap your hands. This might frighten them.
Despite their wild nature, their presence has advantages.
“Coyotes are great neighbors,” Aspen Stevanovski, a local coyote researcher, told The Journal. “They are incredible rodent control and help salvage carcasses (like deer that kill roads) to keep the environment clean. They sometimes eat seeds, and when they eject the seeds through the droppings, they help disperse the seeds. Since coyotes feed on animals that adversely affect songbird populations, there are strong associations between healthy songbird populations and healthy coyote populations. Raptor populations tend to be healthy in areas where coyotes live due to this higher population of songbirds. “
Coyotes are just a caucus in the wildlife riding that many find rewarding for their well-being. They remind us that more is happening than we usually take the time to see – a deeper, more patient reality. Awareness of their presence can lead us to other new discoveries. As the season changes, bringing cooler temperatures and colorful foliage, keep an eye out for our new neighbors. They surely know about you.
Today’s editorial is from the Winston-Salem Journal. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of this newspaper.