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Local News

Coyote Sightings Drop, But...

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The number of reported coyote sightings in Mecklenburg County has dropped dramatically in the last three years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there are fewer coyotes among us.

The phones are not lighting up like they used to at the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department – at least as far as coyotes are concerned. Three years ago, more than 1,200 coyote sightings were reported. This year? Only about two dozen.

One of them was Cynthia Stahl of Matthews. She was struck by how the coyotes in her back yard seemed at home.

“They looked very healthy," she says. "They were very relaxed, calm, moving in a nice, slow steady pace. They did not present any picture that would make you afraid.”

Coyotes are more at home in this area than they used to be. The limited reports of coyote sightings may be proof that county residents are also more used to their presence, says Chris Matthews of the parks and rec department. He points out as coyote’s start to understand their territory, they naturally put further distance between groups.

“What coyotes will do, is they will kind of develop their own territory and they will keep other coyotes out, and so they all kind of find their little space in the landscape," he says. 

They often seek out areas with large open spaces, like greenways and golf courses that also offer easy access to food.

“Our greenways tend to be a magnet for coyotes because of open space, good habitat for birds and small mammals, and then at night time you don’t get a lot of people around," Matthews says.

Pets cats that roam around outside do fall prey to coyotes. Matthews says those attacks are rare but advises owners to keep an eye on cats when they’re outdoors.

An N.C. State study found one benefit of sharing the land with coyotes. Cats can be tough on some native bird species. The study suggests coyotes may be indirectly saving bird populations by keeping cat populations in check.