Animal control officials receiving worried calls about coyotes in Orange County

A coyote in a photo from a Hillsborough resident.

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s mating season for coyotes and officials with Orange County Animal Control say that’s probably why they’ve been getting so many calls from concerned residents.

In the past month, Orange County Animal Services has received at least five calls from worried residents who reported spotting a coyote and some who say they spotted more than one coyote.

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“We live in nature and we’re expanding rapidly onto their territory, so it’s not a surprise at all,” said Hillsborough resident Sean Kehoe.

Officials with animal services say coyotes have been spotted in Hillsborough, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Orange County Animal Services Director Bob Marotto says coyotes can pose a risk to small pets, like cats and toy size dogs.

So, you shouldn’t leave them outside unattended, but he says it’s extremely unlikely that they’d go after a human.

“They’ve become one of the more prominent wildlife issues in our community partly because of their novelty and partly because people have sort of a bigger than life, fictionalized version of these terrifying creatures, which really doesn’t have a factual basis, but nonetheless captures people’s imagination,” Marotto said.

Marotto says to protect pets, don’t leave any kind of food or bird seed outside.

“They are referred to by biologists as opportunistic carnivores because from their position, there’s really no difference between a squirrel and a cat,” said Marotto.

Officials with Animal Control say if you do cross paths with a coyote, the best thing you can do is try to scare it away. You can do that by making a lot of noise. Marotto suggests clapping loudly or banging pots and pans together.

“When people don’t continue to what we call ‘haze them’ in order to make them fearful, they do lose their natural fear of us and they close the gap between themselves and us,” Marotto said. “They come up on our porch, they come into our backyard.”

Marotto says coyotes can carry rabies. Although he says there have only been two reports of rabid coyotes in North Carolina.

He says if your pet does have a run in with any wild animal, report it to public health officials.

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