CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ever since we aired a story Monday night of a coyote sighted in broad daylight in SouthPark, viewers have been reaching out by the droves. Some of you have shared other coyote sightings, while others have been quick to note coyotes are common in our area – and you’re right.
“I don’t think people, regardless of where they live, should be surprised to see them-- even in SouthPark-- even in uptown Charlotte,” says Chris Matthews, who tracks coyotes for Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department.
Matthews says the county has been mapping coyotes for years and says they can be found countywide. In fact, Matthews says coyotes thrive better in urban environments over rural areas.
“They’re omnivorous which means they eat all kinds of food, so there’s all kinds of opportunities for them here, plus there’s no hunting in the city,” says Matthews.
He says they survive on garbage, gardens, pet food that’s been left outside, rodents and sometimes even small pets. In addition to a large food source, Matthews says it's likely coyotes are more commonly spotted in urban areas because, in rural areas, they’re hunted or killed by deer hunters.
As for why many spottings happen during the fall season, Matthews says this time of year food sources dwindle, forcing coyotes to be on the move.
But Matthews says human attacks are extremely rare, even among rabid coyotes. So this Halloween as our little trick-or-treaters hit the streets, he says it’s the coyotes who will be running scared.
“I don’t want to be around 24-year-olds. It’s just too much activity and I think a coyote feels the same way,” says Matthews.
But pets, especially smaller ones, are a different story. Matthews advises pet owners to keep their dogs on a leash or if you let them out in your yard, to go with them. He says your presence will scare off any coyote looking to prey on your pet.
He says keeping your dog on a leash is especially important for people walking one of Charlotte’s many greenways, an area he says is a perfect home for coyotes because they offer both ground cover and food, namely trash.
He says oftentimes, reports of a coyote attacking a dog, come from when the dog is roaming off-leash and comes across a female coyote in her den with her pups.