Young coyotes are exploring new territories to call their own
Just in time for Halloween, expect to see and hear more coyotes over the coming weeks as young coyotes leave their parents’ territory to establish a home of their own. They may wander long distances – upward of 300 miles – before settling down somewhere that’s not already occupied by an established coyote pair. As young coyotes roam, biologists at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission experience an increase in reported sightings.
According to data collected through the agency’s N.C. Wildlife Helpline, the most common calls about coyotes are about:
- Presence in the general area.
- Fear that coyotes pose a threat to people, pets or livestock, although no aggressive behavior or damage is reported.
- Observations of coyotes during the day, which is normal behavior and does not indicate disease.
- Loss or injury of outdoor/feral cats.
- Noise-related complaints.
At first, littermates often travel together before splitting off in search of a mate. Young coyotes will yip, howl and bark to keep track of each other, as well as other coyotes whose territories they are passing through. The hollow tone of their howl and a tendency to vocalize rapidly in a constant stream of sounds can make two coyotes sound like twenty.
“These days coyotes are common across North Carolina – even in residential areas – though they can be very good at not being seen. Hearing or seeing one is no cause for surprise or alarm,” said Falyn Owens, the agency’s extension biologist. “Coyotes usually try to avoid people as much as possible.”
Owens warns, however, that coyotes are opportunists and their typical standoffish behavior toward people can turn indifferent if they regularly get food near where people live and work, especially if they experience few consequences for hanging around.
To make homes and neighborhoods less attractive to coyotes, Owens recommends the following tips:
- Supervise small pets when they’re outside, especially around dawn and dusk.
- Keep cats indoors and poultry in a predator-proof pen.
- Feed pets indoors or remove all food when a pet is finished eating outside.
- 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.
- Intimidate and scare off any coyotes. Throw small objects in their direction, make loud noises, or spray them with a water hose until they retreat and leave the area.
Eliminating easy food sources and creating an active deterrence can help coyotes maintain a healthy fear of humans. Owens advises, “They’re territorial animals, so they understand when they’re overstepping their bounds into an area that doesn’t belong to them. Actively scaring off coyotes helps show them where they’re not welcome.”
For more information about coyotes in North Carolina, visit the Wildlife Commission’s coyote page or call the agency’s N.C. Wildlife Helpline toll-free at 866-318-2401, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays), 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Coyotes can be hunted year-round and can be trapped during the statewide regulated trapping season (Nov. 1 through end of February).
By Mindy Wharton, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission