I’ve been really angry with someone for the past few weeks. Nope, it’s not the hubster nor the kids. In fact, I don’t know who it is.
I’ve been furious with whoever is responsible for coyotes being in our state. I have been kept up at night a few times recently by the howling of coyotes — a sound I never dreamed I would hear in our tame “Old North State.”
I mean, this isn’t Montana, for goodness sakes — or Wyoming. This is North Carolina, where we have some deer, foxes, skunks, raccoons, nasty ‘possums, squirrels, cute little rabbits and a few other examples of wildlife that don’t threaten my walks in downtown Danbury.
But those walks have pretty much ended ever since my hunter neighbor informed me that there are two packs of coyotes that have made our adjoining properties their home. He recently saw one of the big daddies sitting on a rock at the creek which runs through my backyard. He says a younger pack frequents the secluded road I used to walk daily.
But not now. These doggone coyotes are becoming very brave, sounding very close at night.
Since I’ve heard for years that wildlife officials released coyotes into N.C. to control the deer population, I’ve been furious with those officials for that idiotic idea. However, the official website of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission insists that they had nothing to do with coyotes being introduced here.
Their official statement is: “Coyotes arrived in North Carolina as a result of natural range expansion from neighboring states. They established a sustainable population by the mid-1980s, and, by 2004, coyotes lived in every county in North Carolina.”
Although there is a report that the first coyote in this state was seen in Swain County on the Cherokee Reservation in 1947, one N.C. citizen noted on a city blog for the Asheville area that the Wildlife Commission’s own reports say that coyotes were first documented in Wake, Johnston, Beaufort and Hyde — all far eastern N.C. counties. If true, this would debunk the theory that coyotes simply migrated from the state’s western border counties.
Another solution is that hunters introduced the animals to the state, perhaps to train their dogs for fox hunting. Yet another theory is that since coyote pups can be easily mistaken for red fox pups, they were released erroneously by those attempting to increase the red fox population.
Some say that the decrease in gray and red wolves through hunting may have allowed coyotes, free from their natural predators, to move farther east from their more usual western habitats. And it is true that coyotes have great mobility and have proven themselves to be highly adaptable to a variety of terrains and climates.
Whatever the reason for their seemingly sudden increase in our area, we are now faced with what could be a very serious problem. Some say I should resume my routine walks, and if I see a coyote, to simply continue on without showing fear or approaching it.
That sounds lovely, but there’s a difference in one coyote and a pack. I don’t care what animal experts say; I am horrified to this day by the memory of a seemingly harmless family of three dogs owned by a neighbor that began to “pack” and viciously attacked my little beagle on his leash one day. Had it not been for the “coincidence” that a very brave vet was visiting my home at that exact time, my beagle Rocky would be dead today.
So please spare me the assurances that a pack of coyotes won’t harm me and my little children when we go walking Rocky.
Coyotes may indeed be normally harmless to humans but not when it comes to family pets and farm animals. They have been witnessed snatching cats (one of their favorite meals) from porches, attacking sheep in the fields, destroying children’s toys in yards — even in urban areas of our state. They have a peculiar taste for watermelons (don’t we all?) and pose a threat to the family garden.
Local farmers are taking precautions. One family in the Quaker Gap area has constructed a pen out of high tensile woven wire with an electric wire across the top. Their sheep are shut up in this lot every night to keep them safe.
This same family was notified by a sheriff’s deputy one night that coyotes were chasing the family cats around and around their house. Another man in Pinnacle reported a dog there being killed by a coyote.
How can we control this fast-growing nuisance? Unfortunately, hunting them is one of the few ways they can be controlled. The State of North Carolina recognizes this and allows coyotes to be hunted at any time of year — just not at night.
Trapping them is an option, but remember that there is a reason Looney Tunes featured “Wile E. Coyote.” Coyotes are indeed very wily with senses of smell and eyesight that are highly developed and unusually keen.
For those of you worried that we’ll wipe out the coyotes, take a relaxing breath. It has been proven time and time again out West where coyotes have been a serious menace for a long time that despite heavy hunting and trapping of them, coyotes continue to thrive. Normally, they produce about five pups per litter, but when they face a reduction in numbers, their litters increase to as many as 12-14 pups.
Such animals — even wolves and cougars — were common on the old paths of this region, but we modern folks aren’t as equipped to live as Ma and Pa Ingalls did in “Little House on the Prairie.”
Perhaps I should call the mythical Acme Corporation to see if they can help me with my coyote problem. Then again, they didn’t do much good against the Roadrunner, did they?
Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com.