CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One night Memorial Day weekend, Myers Park resident Dave Thomas spotted a pack of at least four coyotes running across his lawn to a wooded area across the street.
His family has three dogs, and he doesn’t let them out in his fenced-in yard alone anymore.
Such sightings have prompted the Myers Park Homeowners Association to warn residents and hold meetings. Some neighbors want the city to relocate them.
Coyotes have been a continuing concern in Charlotte neighborhoods after a rabid coyote attacked a dog in the Cameron Wood neighborhood in 2011. In response, the city started taking reports of coyote sightings.
Some 600 people reported seeing coyotes when a website For reporting went live in January 2012. That’s dropped to a dozen last month, likely because of a lack of public attention.
Still, the reports from last month show coyote sightings scattered throughout the county.
Also last month, A-1 Wildlife Control received about 25 calls for coyote trappings, the most Allen Eckman has received in his 25 years as a trapper. The calls have been spread across the county.
Coyotes in Charlotte
Chris Matthews, division director of Nature Preserves and Natural Resources for Mecklenburg County, said feral cat populations have dropped since coyotes moved to the area.
People can’t discharge firearms in Charlotte, so coyotes don’t have to worry about hunters.
Coyotes are generally nocturnal, but there have been sightings during the day, Matthews said.
Grace McGoogan, a Myers Park resident, said she saw a coyote at around 1 p.m. in June when she was driving with her neighbor down Hillside Avenue.
She said she was startled to see the coyote crossing the street, showing no fearful behavior.
Learning to coexist
Many city residents want coyotes relocated, but officials say there is not much they can do.
Tim Gestwicki, CEO of N.C. Wildlife Federation, said state agencies don’t have the money for coyote removal, so people who want to get coyotes off their property must call a private licensed wildlife removal company. Most trappers use a series of leg traps to catch coyotes.
Even if people call licensed trappers to remove coyotes, they can’t prevent other coyotes from coming, Gestwicki said.
When Myers Park resident Brent Stewart saw coyotes come up to his front porch, he called a licensed trapper. He was warned that the leg traps pose a risk for other animals.
“I guess I am going to just sit back and pray that my kids and my pets don’t get hurt,” Stewart said.
Eckman said his company is willing to trap coyotes that act aggressively toward other animals or people, but if the coyotes are not causing problems, he recommends leaving them alone.
In many cases, he said, people and coyotes must learn to coexist.
Keeping track of coyotes
Despite the lack in recent reporting, McGoogan said there have been many more sightings in her neighborhood this summer, but people haven’t been reporting them to the right place.
She said most people have been calling Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Animal Care & Control, which can only respond when a coyote is rabid or has attacked another animal.
Matthews said it is hard to determine the number of coyotes that live in Mecklenburg County because they move around frequently. He said it is likely that a lot of the coyote sightings in the county could be the same one.
He said cameras, which were installed after the 2011 attack, show that coyotes seem to hunt alone or in pairs. But, Matthews said, coyotes started to avoid the cameras after a while.
Matthews said sightings recorded and photos taken are strictly used to determine where coyotes are living and how they hunt. He said coyotes self-regulate their population, so people don’t need to worry about overpopulation.
“What we have found is that we don’t consider the coyote population to be a problem,” Matthews said.