The distinctive call of the coyote or “song dog” echoes across our state, from the more welcoming rural areas of wooded forests and open fields, to the less inviting backyards of metro Atlanta neighborhoods.
Rapid human population growth across the state coupled with the coyote’s unique ability to adapt and thrive, contributes to today’s increased observation of coyotes in urban settings.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division encourages residents to educate themselves and take the proper precautions essential in co-existing with coyotes.
“Historically, coyotes were most commonly found on the Great Plains of North America. However, their range has expanded greatly. They are one of the most adaptable species on the planet. In fact, coyotes have adapted quite well to living in suburbs and cities like Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta,” says John Bowers, Wildlife Resources Division assistant chief of Game Management.
“Preventive methods are the best solutions for residents to reduce the potential for human-coyote conflicts,” explains Bowers.
Though the coyote’s principal diet typically consists of small rodents and fruit, they are characterized as opportunistic and will prey on small, domestic animals if given the opportunity. Because of this, small house pets (especially cats), young or small livestock and poultry are vulnerable and susceptible prey. The division advises landowners and homeowners to heed the following precautions to ensure the safety of their animals:
- Take pets indoors during the night, as this is the coyote’s primary hunting time. (In addition to coyotes, small pets may fall prey to free-roaming dogs and great horned owls.)
- If the pet must be kept outside, install fencing and flood lights to discourage predators.
- Small livestock or poultry should be kept in an enclosed or sheltered area. Coyotes rarely bother larger livestock although they are often blamed for such nuisance instances. (It should be noted that free-roaming dogs, rather than coyotes, are notorious for harassing, damaging or killing livestock.)
The division encourages residents to also heed the additional following tips in an effort to minimize coyote habituation to humans and ensure public health and safety:
- NEVER, under any circumstances, feed a coyote.
- Keep items, such as grills, pet food or bird feeders off-limits. Clean and store grills when not in use, keep pet food indoors or feed pets indoors and refill bird feeders infrequently and in small amounts.
- Make trashcans inaccessible. Keep lids securely fastened or store trashcans in a secured location until trash day.
Additional solutions for managing coyotes and the problems they may cause include trapping and/or hunting. Coyotes are not native to Georgia and may be hunted/trapped year-round. The division does NOT provide trapping services, but maintains a list of permitted and licensed trappers across the state. Residents interested in hiring a private trapper may contact the local Wildlife Resources Division office or call 770-918-6416 for a referral.
“The division receives numerous calls each year. Most callers report the sighting of a coyote or request coyote relocation,” says Bowers. “Relocation is not a solution. Relocating coyotes only moves the problem into someone else's backyard. It also usually means a slower death resulting from the stress of being released into unfamiliar territory. Trapping and killing habituated or problem coyotes is the only reasonable way to keep them out of backyards.”
While coyotes closely resemble a small dog in appearance, the distinctive characteristics that set the species apart are upright, pointed ears, a pointed snout, low forehead, a mottled color fur pattern ranging from black to reddish-blonde and a bushy tail that is generally carried straight out below the level of the back.
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