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Coyote consultant, NC Wildlife Resource Commission offer advice on dealing with coyotes

The animals are being spotted more often in suburban areas, including around the Charlotte area.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bill Crowder, best known by most folks as Coyote Bill, describes himself as a lifelong outdoorsman. He's always been respectful of wildlife. Up until a few years ago, he hadn't had any real problems with coyotes.

But in 2018, a coyote killed his mother-in-law's cat in Charlotte, along W.T. Harris Boulevard near Sharon Amity Road. Crowder and his wife started being more cautious with the cats on their own property, even installing a pet door that only allowed the felines in the house, not out. But when one was killed by a coyote after an escape in 2019, he decided he had to do something.

RELATED: Cat owner warns others after she finds beloved pet dead in apparent coyote attack

"It was excruciating pain to lose your pet that way," he told WCNC Charlotte. "So right then, I retired from a commercial real estate practice and business brokerage practice."

Now, Coyote Bill is the man in charge of Carolina Coyotes. He offers free consultations to anyone who reaches out to him about how they can keep their pets safe, from installing tall fenced-in enclosures to suggestions on tools people can keep handy. Usually, he's called in if a pet suddenly goes missing or if someone thinks a coyote is on their property. 

What he does not do, however, is hunt coyotes down.

"We do not kill any coyotes. We do not trap any coyotes," he said. "I am a researcher and I provide educational services and consultation."

As part of his research, Crowder also helps neighbors in the Charlotte area keep tabs on coyote sightings via the "Coyotes in the Carolinas" group on Nextdoor. It doesn't take much scrolling to see several recent reports from group members, including some security camera footage.

RELATED: Several coyote attacks recently reported in the Carolinas

According to Crowder, his calls for service have been steadily increasing. In 2019, he estimates he responded to 80 calls. In 2020, that nearly doubled to 140 calls. In 2021, the number of calls shot up to more than 350.

One thing Crowder notes is that coyotes are starting to appear in more suburban areas. A WCNC Charlotte viewer in the northwest part of the city shared a video of a coyote on his property just after midnight on Thursday, April 14, affirming Crowder's observation.

It's also something the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is seeing. Falyn Owens, an extension wildlife biologist with the commission, said coyotes are even in uptown Charlotte.

"They're really shy and skittish and wary of being around when people are around," she said. "So even though they're pretty much everywhere, most of the time you're never going to know it."

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Crowder said he and the members of Coyotes in the Carolinas have noticed some of the animals have been acting differently; according to him, coyotes go through cycles for mating, building dens, raising pups, and finding territory once old enough. But he said since there's less land to claim with urban expansion, there's less open territory for younger coyotes to settle in. That means they're up against the alpha males and females.

"As of right now, we are seeing the 2021 pups not be settled, and the alphas are really agitated at that point," Crowder said. "So what we're seeing is an extended period of the migration cycle because they think the territories are gone."

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That expanded migration period could explain why coyotes are popping up more often in neighborhoods. Owens notes most concerns reported to the commission involve coyotes showing up in urban and suburban areas, which can put smaller pets at risk. But she says as long as pet parents are present outside when letting the dog out to do business, that could help deter any threats.

"Small pets like toy breed dogs are animals that you definitely want to keep close to you when they're outside," said Owens. "Keeping dogs on leash is a great way to avoid conflicts with coyotes, and cats definitely should stay inside."

The same advice for small pets also applies to small children; Owens said parents should supervise little kids when they're outside. For older children and adults, the best way to scare off a coyote if they're encountered is to intimidate them.

"If you see a coyote, act big, act scary, yell at it," she said.

Crowder agrees that it's best to be present when a small pet needs to go outside but also said coyotes have started getting aggressive even with larger dogs. Both say along with yelling, things like a compressed air horn, a large stick, or a child's baseball bat can help make a person look bigger and more intimidating to the animals.

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Owens also made a point to WCNC Charlotte that North Carolina has a year-round open season on coyotes; they can be shot and killed legally in the wilderness. However, said it's best not to fire a gun within a city with a no-shooting ordinance. 

For that, Crowder says he can help neighbors get licensed trappers in if they want to handle a coyote that way. Even then, however, he said homeowners need to be realistic and recognize the issue won't go away that easily.

"If they want the coyotes killed, then I will refer them to a trapper that is in the state," he said. "But I tell them there's not a lot you can do about it. They're here and they're here to stay."

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