Coyotes are here to stay

Published 10:14 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Coyotes seem to be all the rage these days. There have been recent articles in local papers about coyotes at the north end of Virginia Beach, an article about coyotes on the Outer Banks, and an article about possible mixed breed coyote/red wolf animals. All very interesting.

On Sunday, Susan and three other ladies went birding in the Great Dismal Swamp. After three hours of pileated woodpeckers, warblers, flickers and an assortment of other bird sightings, it was time to leave. As Susan was exiting the Washington Ditch road, a coyote darted across the road just ahead of the car in front of her.

A definite coyote sighting. At 11 in the morning. On a gravel road in the Great Dismal Swamp. When she came home and informed me of the event, I searched online “coyotes in the Great Dismal Swamp.” Sure enough, there’s a lovely video of a handsome fellow trotting down the road towards the videographer. Not a surprise.

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Of course, the ladies had an idea he was nearby. On the path and the boardwalk, they had noticed scat that looked like domesticated dog scat, but with furry components throughout.

About eight years ago, a farmer friend had such a problem with coyotes, he invited a game warden on an early-morning stakeout to watch them. They saw about 10 coyotes, which they expected, and then a red wolf. Huh? How did he get there from the Alligator River, N.C.? Mind you, it was the ranger that identified the wolf. More and more coyote kills are being tested for hybridization with wolves. Or foxes. They’re all canines.

So, yes! There are coyotes in the Dismal Swamp. And, yes! Some may be hybridized. And, yes! They’re coming to a neighborhood near you. And, yes! they may kill your pet dog or cat, so don’t let them out unattended. Last year, 52,000 coyotes were killed in North Carolina. It has been proven that the higher their mortality rate, the higher their birth rate. Better learn to live with them. We are the ones taking their habitat. They are not going away, they are just adapting to their new normal — and they are really good at it.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.