Chapel Hill, N.C. — Orange County Animal Services and other local law enforcement agencies on Wednesday will host a public information session in Chapel Hill to give residents strategies for humanely dealing with a growing coyote population.
The meeting is in response to several coyote encounters that have spooked some Orange County residents and their pets. Although they are usually not a threat to people, the animals are seen as a nuisance and concern for pet owners.
Experts say that attacks on people are rare, but that it is more common for them to attack pets for food or to get rid of what they perceive to be competition.
"There's a lot of debate in our neighborhood about whether the coyote should be trapped or shot or just be left alone," said Lauren Hodge, a Chapel Hill resident who encountered a coyote while walking her dog last summer.
In 1985, the coyote population in North Carolina was contained to four counties – Burke, Gaston, Washington and Beaufort – according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. By 2005, the population had spread to all 100 counties.
Part of the reason is that coyotes are "opportunistic feeders" that feed on a variety of food sources – including animal remains, garbage and pet food – and survive anywhere there is abundant food sources.
The Wildlife Resources Commission recommends securing garbage bins with tight-fitting lids and putting it out for pickup in the morning, instead of at night, to keep coyotes from scavenging the trash.
Another recommendation: Don't feed or try to pet them. Doing so, the Wildlife Resource Commission says, rewards them for coming into close contact with humans. Once they becomes used to people, the animals lose their natural wariness of people and could become bold or aggressive.
Wednesday's public information session is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Orange County Animal Services Center, at 1601 Eubanks Road in Chapel Hill.
The session is free, and registration is not required.