Featured Creature: The Coyote
The coyote is native only in North America and, of all wild canine species, the coyote has the widest range in this country. This predator is arguably the hardiest and most adaptable species on this continent.
Coyotes in North Carolina look similar to red wolves, but coyotes are smaller, have pointed and erect ears, and long slender snouts. The tail is long, bushy and black-tipped and is usually carried pointing down.
Color is 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.
The coyote is classified as a carnivore, but it is an opportunistic feeder, meaning it will feed on a variety of food sources, depending on what is most readily available and easy to obtain.
Primary foods include fruit, berries, rodents, rabbits, birds, snakes, frogs, and insects. They will scavenge on animal remains, including road-kill, as well as garbage and pet food left outdoors. Like many wild animals, the coyote’s diet varies with seasonal changes.
Coyotes survive anywhere there are abundant food sources. Their habitat can range from agricultural fields to forested regions and suburban neighborhoods.
Coyotes, like other wildlife, are adapting to the urban-suburban environment and are opportunistic in finding food and resources available in these places.
Coexisting with Coyotes
If you live in North Carolina, you’ve probably seen a coyote, or know someone who has.
The animal’s unique ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats, including suburban environments, along with rapid human population growth across the state, has led to an increase in sightings. While in most cases coyotes are harmless, people can take steps to prevent conflicts with the animals.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Coyote Quick Facts
Where did coyotes come from?
Coyotes were once found only in the mid-western portion of North America. But as Europeans settled across the country, the subsequent landscape changes, coupled with elimination of wolves, allowed the coyote to expand its range toward the eastern United States. By the 1980s coyotes started to appear in western North Carolina as a result of natural range expansion from our neighboring states. Coyotes are now established in all 100 counties of North Carolina and live in many towns.
National Park Service
What do coyotes look like?
Often described as a "mangy-looking dog," coyotes weigh about 20-45 pounds (similar to a mid-sized dog) with, typically, reddish to dark gray thick fur. They have long slender snouts, a bushy tail and pointed ears.
Do they make noise?
Yes, coyotes howl. While some find it unnerving, this howl serves many purposes, none of which are malicious. If you hear a family of coyotes howling, it is easy to think that the area is overflowing with coyotes. In reality, there are usually only 2-6 coyotes, including the pups.
Will coyotes attack me or my child?
Attacks on people, including children, are extremely rare. Normal coyote behavior is to be curious, but wary, when close to humans. Like other wildlife, they will become bold and habituated if people feed them, either purposely or inadvertently, such as with garbage or outdoor pet food. They rarely contract rabies.
Will coyotes attack my pet?
Possibly. Coyotes view outdoor cats and small unleashed dogs as prey, while larger dogs are viewed as threats to their territory and/or their pups. Coyotes are most likely to confront larger dogs during the mating and pup birthing period, January through June.
What should I do if I see a coyote?
Simply seeing a coyote is not cause for concern. If you see a coyote frequently, you and your neighbors should take steps to prevent conflicts with it and other wildlife.
Preventing Conflicts with Coyotes
To prevent problems with coyotes:
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 becomes 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 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
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
Allow hunters or trappers access to your property, so the local coyote population can be managed. Coyotes avoid areas in which threats are perceived.
If you already have a problem with a coyote:
Implement the non-lethal steps described above.
Contact a Wildlife Damage Control Agent, a private individual who charges for his/her services. A list is available at www.ncwildlife.org under "Coexisting with Wildlife."
Contact a licensed trapper during the regulated trapping season. See the list at www.ncwildlife.org under
"Coexisting with Wildlife."
• Coyotes can be hunted
year-round using firearms and archery equipment. However, check to see if local ordinances restrict the discharge of firearms. A landowner can shoot a coyote in the act of causing damage.
National Park Service
N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
1751 Varsity Drive
Raleigh, NC 27606
Spring has sprung and Wildlife have had young.............
Soon phones will be ringing with folks calling in about what to do with “orphaned” wildlife.
The best message:
“Leave it alone for 24 hours to allow the adult female to return.
Do not pick it up; do not try to feed it; leave it where it was found.”
It is best to leave wildlife alone
Capturing and handling young animals can stress them, sometimes fatally.
Young animals, if alone, are not necessarily abandoned. Many animals do not
stay with their young and only return to feed them.
Wildlife can transmit diseases, such as rabies.
It is illegal to keep wildlife without a permit.
Does hide their fawns while they feed. Although the fawn is alone,
the doe will return several times a day to nurse it, staying only a few
If you are concerned about a fawn, leave the area and return the next day.
Does are vary cautious and will not return to the fawn if they sense danger,
such as a person near-by.
If a fawn is in the exact location when you check on it the following day and
bleating loudly, or if a fawn is lying beside a dead doe, do not take the fawn
into your possession. To find a local permitted fawn rehabilitator, contact
the NCWRC at (919) 707-0050 or go to our website at: www.ncwildlife.org/injuredwildlife.aspx
Birds and Rabbits:
If the nest is close by, a young bird (nestling or fledgling) or rabbit can be put
back in the nest. The adult may return to care for it. It is a myth that adults
will abandon young that have been touched by humans. Do not try to
rehabilitate the rabbit or birds on your own, as this is not only illegal, but may
cause injury to the animal.
For other species, if no adult returns or the adult female has been found dead, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator at:
or call 919-707-0050.
Due to rabies concerns the newborn, young and adult of the following
species cannot be rehabilitated: coyote, skunk, fox, raccoon, and bat.
NC Wildlife Resources is just a click away
Furbearing wildlife causing
extensive property damage during the trapping season?
Contact a licensed trapper: www.ncwildlife.org/Trapping/ContacaLicensedTrapper.aspx
& search by county and species.
Furbearing animals are certain wildlife species that can be trapped during the regulated trapping season.
For information on
species you can trap & trapping season dates go to www.ncwildlife.org/Trapping/
Wildlife causing extensive property damage outside the hunting and trapping season?
Contact a Wildlife Damage Control Agent: www.ncwildlife.org/Trapping/WildlifeDamageControlAgent.aspx
For tips on reducing conflicts with wildlife go to: www.ncwildlife.org/Trapping/HaveaProblem.aspx
Found an injured or orphaned wild animal? For information and licensed rehabilitator contacts go to:
Problems with a
raptor, waterfowl or other bird species? All birds are federally protected. Call USDA Wildlife
Services at 866-487-3297, ext. 225.
Want to learn more about a particular wild animal species? www.ncwildlife.org/Conserving?\/Species.aspx
What is the Wildlife Damage Control Agent (WDCA) Program?
The WDCA program allows trained and certified individuals to issue wildlife depredation
permits to North Carolina residents having wildlife damage problems.
Depredation permits are needed to hunt or trap and lethally remove wildlife outside
of the season.
The NCWRC offers a WDCA workshop that provides you with the rules and
regulations that govern the WDCA program, information on euthanasia, safe
handling of wildlife, and a variety of other information that will be useful for WDCA’s. Agents must pass a closed book
Certification examination and a criminal background check prior to being certified. Once you have received your certification
in the mail you may begin operating in a WDCA capacity.
For additional information go to:
Attending a two-day workshop is a certification requirement.
Remaining 2014 workshops: June 11-12 (full)
October 8-9 (open)