Six homeowners spoke to the Town Council last week about coyotes in Southern Shores, expressing fear and discomfort about these predatory canines living in our town.
“I’m fearful, not for myself, but for my pets,” Susan Stroud, who lives on Wax Myrtle Trail, told the Town Council during its public-comment period at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Something has to be done so I can feel comfortable,” said Steve Weeks of Chicahauk, who also spoke of his wife being fearful for her safety.
According to Town Manager Peter Rascoe, Town Hall has received reports of coyote sightings for at least the past three years. He has a “full library of photos,” Mr. Rascoe said, but he has never received a complaint about aggressive coyote behavior or an attack.
If a resident witnesses aggressive, threatening behavior by a coyote, or “foaming at the mouth”—a symptom suggesting rabies, which is rare in coyotes, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission—Mr. Rascoe advised him or her to call 911 and report the animal to the police.
When Europeans first arrived in North America, coyotes were largely confined to the open plains and arid areas of the western part of the continent. These animals, variously known as prairie wolves, barking dogs, and American jackals, have evolved substantially over the centuries, adapting and migrating; they now live throughout the United States, except for Hawaii, and have 19 subspecies.
The first coyote sighting in North Carolina was in 1938, according to the state wildlife commission. By 2005, coyotes inhabited all 100 N.C. counties. Dare County has the distinction of being the last N.C. county to confirm a coyote sighting.
The Town’s response to homeowners’ concerns last week was clear: Residents need to learn how to cohabitate with coyotes, just as they do with other wildlife, in Southern Shores. Coyotes are “here to stay,” Mr. Rascoe said.
“Human interaction cannot be avoided,” Mayor Tom Bennett agreed.
HUNTING OF COYOTES NOT ALLOWED IN DARE COUNTY
The hunting of coyotes is not permitted in Dare County or in nearby Beaufort, Hyde, Tyrell, and Washington counties. This five-county area is the only remaining U.S. habitat and recovery area for the endangered red wolf, which once lived as far north as Pennsylvania, as far south as Florida, and as far west as Texas.
Coyotes are their own species, but they look enough like wolves that hunters may mistake wolves for coyotes and kill precious red wolves. According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, healthy red wolves pose no safety risk to humans, pets, or livestock.
Although they may have similar coloring, wolves are larger than coyotes, which generally top out at 40-45 pounds, and have broader snouts and short, rounded ears. Coyotes have narrow, pointed faces with small nose pads and taller, pointed ears.
Although hunting coyotes is not allowed in Dare County, state-licensed trappers can kill them here by trapping them during the fur-bearing season that runs from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28, Mr. Rascoe said. According to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, a trapper must obtain a “depredation permit” in order to kill a coyote in this county.
The Town of Nags Head hired trapper Leary Sink during the 2017-18 season to trap coyotes within its limits after receiving numerous resident reports of coyote sightings and complaints of small pets being killed. Mr. Sink reportedly trapped 17 coyotes.
After coyotes are ensnared in leg-hold traps—which can trap other wild and domestic animals, too—they are required to be killed at their trapping sites, Mr. Rascoe said. Usually an animal control officer shoots them.
Unfortunately, wildlife biologists agree that seasonal trappings and other permissible hunting methods will not rid an area of coyotes.
Coyotes, like dogs and wolves, are pack animals. When pack animals are killed, biologists say, the social structure of their packs breaks down. A breakdown leads to females becoming more likely to breed and pups being more likely to survive. Because packs generally protect their territories, a breakdown also results in new animals coming in to replace those that were killed.
TOWN RESOURCES ABOUT COYOTES POSTED ONLINE
The Town of Southern Shores has posted quite a few resources about coyotes on its website, including most recently a copy of a brochure titled “Living With Coyotes,” which a Denver-based wildlife program, Friends of Animals, published. (friendsofanimals.org)
Among the Town’s helpful educational resources is a videotape of the Coyote Conflict Management workshop with N.C. coastal biologist J. Chris Turner that the Town held Dec. 6, 2017. See: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/?s=coyotes.
Here are just two of the other links:
Coyote species profile: https://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Conserving/documents/Profiles/Coyote_Update033017.pdf.
Coexisting with coyotes:
Mr. Turner, who is employed by the state wildlife commission, also spoke recently to the Kill Devil Hills Town Council. The Beacon refers you to a videotape of his talk and other resources about hunting and coexisting with coyotes on the Outer Banks that KDH has posted online at: https://www.kdhnc.com/651/Coyotes-on-the-Outer-Banks.
Town Councilman Gary McDonald suggested last week that Southern Shores residents may benefit from an encore presentation by Mr. Turner. Mr. Rascoe advised that, if that were done, it would be best done after “the heat of the summer.”
All public officials seemed to concur that the key to successful human cohabitation with coyotes is human awareness: of one’s natural environment and of one’s behaviors and habits that put oneself and one’s pets in harm’s way.
Coyotes do not seek confrontation with human beings. But if you are putting food out for deer, raccoons, or other wildlife—or feeding your pets outside of your home—you are inviting them into your territory. They’re hungry, and they will go where they find food.
Similarly, if you are letting your dog out at night, off of a leash and without your supervision, you are putting your much-loved companion at risk. A big dog may fight off a coyote attack. A Chihuahua or Pomeranian doesn’t stand a chance. Responsible cat owners know that if you want to be sure you don’t lose your cat to a coyote, you have to keep him or her indoors and close the cat door permanently.
The Beacon believes Town Councilman Jim Conners, who seemed to speak for a majority of the Council when he said he does not favor trapping, had the best last word on Southern Shores’ coyote population.
“We came to Southern Shores for the nature,” Mr. Conners said. Now, we have to “learn as humans to adapt to the nature.”
And so do our visitors, who need to made aware, as well.
EXTRA: U.S. CONGRESSMAN WALTER B. JONES JR. DIES
Walter B. Jones, Jr., who has represented the U.S. Congressional district that includes Dare County since 1995, died yesterday on his 76th birthday. According to an obituary in The Washington Post, Mr. Jones died in hospice care after a fall in which he broke his hip.
Mr. Jones, a Republican, ran unopposed and won reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives last November. He was sworn in as a member of the 116th U.S. Congress in January from his home in Farmville.
By unanimous consent, the U.S. House granted Mr. Jones a leave of absence in December for the remainder of the previous session for an “unspecified illness,” The Post also reported.
Mr. Jones’s father, Walter B. Jones, Sr., a Democrat, served the first U.S. district in North Carolina, holding office from 1966-92. Mr. Jones Sr. also died in office. Democrat Eva McPherson Clayton, an African American who had served on the Warren County Board of Commissioners, defeated Mr. Jones Jr. in a special election run-off to fill Mr. Jones Sr.’s unexpired term.
Thereafter, Mr. Jones Jr. switched parties, becoming a Republican, and ran in North Carolina’s third congressional district, instead of its first. He became a fixture in that congressional office.
Mr. Jones gained national attention in early 2003 when he suggested renaming French fries “freedom fries,” after France opposed proposed U.S. military action in Iraq. With the deaths of thousands of U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Jones later came to regret his hawkish position on the Iraq invasion, changing his stance on the war, The Post said.
A special election will be held in Mr. Jones’s congressional district to elect his successor. Until this occurs, the third district will have no voting representation in Congress.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/11/19