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Growing coyote population in N.C. creates more encounters with humans
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Growing coyote population in N.C. creates more encounters with humans

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In this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service footage, coyotes are shown in the wild.

A hen was missing from a Statesville, N.C., home last week in the western part of town, but the woman who lived there had a suspect: A coyote.

“So my hen becoming coyote dinner was my fault,” the woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said. She said she wants to bring awareness to the hazards of living on the edge of nature even in what most would consider close to town.

She said one of her children likely didn’t secure the bird before dark and she believed the culprit was the same one her family heard kill a feral cat the night before. She said they’d been seeing and hearing coyotes the past few months in the immediate vicinity of their home, where they also raise chickens for their eggs.

These encounters are more common over the last decade as the coyote population has grown in the area as there are few apex predators to slow the coyote population growth, according to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Officer Matthew Lee. On top of that, as towns and cities expand outward, people come into contact with animals as their environment is overtaken by humans.

“As things build up, you’re going to have more interactions with wildlife. That’s not an issue if you see them, but if there is strange behavior, or out of the ordinary, call us or animal control,” Lee said. Coyotes approaching humans, which they are typically scared of, is one of those strange behaviors, Lee said.

Lee said local N.C. Wildlife officers deal with a handful of calls each year as often coyotes are curious but can be scared off easily by making noise or otherwise letting the animals know they’ve been seen.

Iredell County Animal Services and Control director Kristian Hernandez said negative reinforcement is key in encouraging coyotes to avoid getting too close. He suggested banging pots and pans, shaking a can with coins in it, or anything to give the animal’s attention and let it know it isn’t welcome.

“They’re going to associate people negatively and not want to be close to them,” Hernandez said.

The woman whose hen was taken acknowledged that they hadn’t properly secured their own animals, and Lee said it’s best to secure your pets inside if you have concerns. He also said to make sure food supplies that wild animals might be attracted to are secured. He said whether coyotes, raccoons, or any other animal, it’s about removing what’s attracting them toward where humans are.

“If you take that food away, they’re going to move on. If you’re putting food out there, of course, you’re going to see them. They’re going to come to an easy meal,” Lee said.

However, he said often coyotes are blamed when there are other culprits that are certainly possible in the area.

“It’s unfortunate that coyotes get blamed a lot. It could be a small fox, dog, anything lot. The public always likes to blame coyotes, but it’s not always a coyote,” Lee said.

Follow Ben Gibson on Facebook and Twitter at @BenGibsonSRL

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