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Coyotes roam among us, even in beach neighborhoods

By  on June 19, 2014


A coyote roaming in Nags Head Acres has been caught on camera by a resident two times in recent weeks, reaffirming that these strong swimmers and impressive scavengers now inhabit nearly every town on the Outer Banks from Hatteras to Corolla.

Nags Head Police Chief Kevin Brinkley says the animal photographed definitely appears to be a coyote, and the non-native mammals have been spotted in other areas of town, including South Nags Head.

Buster Nunemaker, who took the photos, says he has seen the coyote in his yard and on the road and adds that he is concerned about the growing population of the animal in coastal counties.

“Coyotes in these counties are now allowed to kill freely and that bothers me,” he said. “Coyotes are not native east of the Mississippi but are found in all 50 states. They need to be eradicated.”

Nunemaker is referring to a temporary injunction implemented in May by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission that prohibits coyote hunting in a five-county Red Wolf Reintroduction area. The area includes Dare, Tyrell, Hyde, Beaufort and Washington counties.

Coyotes can be mistaken for red wolves and several have been shot in recent years. At the same time, they can breed with red wolves and disrupt the population.

Brinkley said coyote sightings in Dare County have been common since 2005, and the town is not aware of any problems created by the animals. They are most often spotted in areas such as Nags Head Woods and nearby neighborhoods. The animals have made their way into all 100 counties in North Carolina.

Nunemaker says the current injunction lacks a balance between managing coyotes and protecting the red wolf population. “It’s all about the red wolf now, but there has to be a balance,” he said.

A public hearing is slated for 7 p.m. today in the Columbia High School auditorium to receive input on the temporary regulations.

According to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, coyote distribution has sharply increased since the mid-1980s, when sightings were reported in less than 12 counties. Now estimates by hunters and trappers of coyotes indicate a dramatic increase. More than 27,000 coyotes were harvested statewide during the 2012-2013 season, and trappings have increased 26-fold in the last 10 years, the WRC reports.

Chris Turner, WRC wildlife management biologist for the state’s coastal region, says coyotes do a lot of traveling and lack many boundaries. “They live around people very well, so I’m not surprised to hear they are anywhere on the Outer Banks,” he said.

 The best way to manage coyotes, Turner says, is to get rid of food around your home. “Once the food is gone, the critters often leave, too.”

Coyotes, he says, will eat almost anything — from table scraps to pet food left in the yard. “They are very easily habituated to humans through food,” he said.

Coyotes look like mangy dogs and range in weight between 20 and 45 pounds. They have reddish to dark gray thick fur, slender snouts, bushy tails and pointed ears. Coyotes howl for many reasons, none of which are malicious, according to literature provided by the WRC.

These canines are extremely unlikely to attack people. They are naturally curious but cautious and rarely contract rabies. They could possibly attack pets such as outdoor cats and small unleashed dogs, viewing them as prey. If residents see a coyote regularly, steps should be taken to prevent conflicts with it such as securing garbage, keeping pets inside, fenced in or leashed, feeding pets indoors and keeping bird-feeder areas clean.

Other suggestions are to close off crawl spaces, cut back brush edges, clear fallen fruit and educate neighbors in areas where they have been seen.

The temporary injunction, issued in May, was the result of a federal court order that stemmed from a lawsuit alleging that the Wildlife Resources Commission violated the federal Endangered Species Act by permitting hunting of coyotes in counties where red wolf reintroduction was being attempted. According to a press release, the lawsuit attempts to permanently end coyote hunting in the five counties.

Coyote hunting with no bag limits ia permitted in the remaining 95 counties, according to Turner.

Under the injunction, coyotes can be shot in the five counties only in defense of a person’s safety, or if livestock or pets are threatened. If a coyote is shot, it must be reported to the WRC within 24 hours.

“The Commission is deeply concerned about potential impacts to private landowners, hunters and native wildlife resulting from this order,” Jim Cogdell, chairman of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, was quoted in the press release announcing Thursday’s public hearing.

The public comment period continues to June 23. Comments can be emailed or mailed to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, 1701 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1701. For more information on Wildlife Commission temporary rulemaking, go to

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