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Coyote Spotted in Kingsbrooke

| January 28, 2015 | 0 Comments | News
Photo of the coyote that Nancy Ware shared on the Kingsbrooke Community Facebook page.

Photo of the coyote that Nancy Ware shared on the Kingsbrooke Community Facebook page.

Coyotes are in Bristow. That is what Bristow Beat has been hearing from residents.

Kingsbrooke resident Nancy Ware reported on the Kingsbrooke Community Facebook page that at least one coyote has been spotted in Kingsbrooke. She included a photo that a neighbor shared with her.

Ware had long wondered about coyotes living nearby her home. About a year and a half ago, Ware lost her two cats. They were outside cats that she allowed to wander about the neighborhood, but they had always come back, until one day.

When they did not return, she contacted the Prince William Animal Shelter and hung photos around the neighborhood, explaining that her cats were missing and requesting that someone return them to her. However, she never heard anything about their whereabouts.

Then, about ago two years ago, she began to hear the howls of coyotes in her neighborhood especially when she returned home late from working the night shift. It sounded like there were many of them.

She began to wonder if maybe the coyotes had made her cats their prey.

She began to talk to her neighbors along Weathersfield Drive about the coyote sounds. They had also heard them, and some have even seen what they thought were coyotes.

Ware did some research and learned that coyotes are not at all rare in Virginia. She found this surprising.

“We’ve lived in this neighborhood for 16 years. It wasn’t until two years ago that we actually heard them,” Ware said.

As she learned more about coyotes, it also made sense to her that coyotes would wander along Weathersfield Drive, which backs up to Broad Run and includes wooded areas. Coyotes prefer to remain hidden in the woods or brush, but occasionally they will wander into more suburban or urban neighborhood in search of food.

Ware worked with her neighbors who were also concerned about the coyotes to see if they could capture proof of the Broad Run coyotes. In order to accomplish this, a neighbor of her’s set up a motion sensor camera in a clearing in the woods. To entice the coyotes, they left out some food.

“We put the camera out there right after Christmas,” Ware said. “We know we had coyotes, but how many? We wanted to get an image of them.”

Recently, they were able to photograph of what appears to be a coyote, although there were some who commented that the photo may just be of a fox, which are more commonly seen in Bristow especially along runs and creeks.

However, Ware believes it is a coyote, and now that she has proof of their existence in her neighborhood, she wants to warn people to guard their domestic animals against a coyote attack.

According to District Wildlife Biologist Kevin Rose of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, coyotes are pretty common in Northern Virginia.

“It’s not something we specifically follow because there are a lot of coyotes in the area. Last year I saw one down actually in the City of Fairfax. They are pretty much everywhere,” Rose said.

Rose said that while coyotes live in every county in Virginia they are not really dangerous, especially not to people. However, they may prey on small animals, even domesticated animals.

Specifically, Rose said coyotes would not hesitate to take a cat.

However, from a wildlife point of view, Rose advises that people not leave their cats outside unattended. Not only can they become prey to wild animals, but they also prey upon many indigenous animals, upsetting wildlife populations and affecting habitats.

“Everybody who has a cat should keep their cat inside anyway. Cats are extremely destructive to our natural wildlife,” he said, explaining that even the most well-fed house cat retains its hunting instinct.

Noting that most people would be more concerned about protecting their pets, he also warns against the real danger outdoor cats face.

“If you do have outdoor cats, a coyote would look at them as prey,” he said.

Small dogs are also at risk. Although most are safe in a fenced in yard, canines left outside on a leash or retained only by an electric collar would make easy prey for a coyote; although coyotes would not bother with larger dogs.

He said that while coyotes pose a danger to these small animals, they are otherwise harmless and should not attack humans, even small children.

“If you see a coyote, and it’s in the woods, just basically enjoy the experience,” Rose said.

However, he advises people not encourage coyotes to venture into their residential neighborhoods.

“We encourage people to scare them away. Bang pots and pan, throw inedible objects [at them,] he said. “We don’t want them to get comfortable in your neighborhood and lose their fear of humans.”

He said that people often unintentionally attract coyotes and other nuisance wildlife by leaving out food. It could be food in a bird feeder, food meant for domestic cats or dogs, or food meant to attract other animals such as deer or rabbits.

Coyotes are omnivores, Rose explained. They eat live prey. They scavenge and eat recently deceased animals. They eat meat or vegetables, people or pet food.

Another problem is that coyotes love crawl spaces, which they see as dens.

“Any place under your house that can be used as a den such as underneath your patio [a coyote may try to inhabit.] Under a deck or the crawl space of a house is essentially the same thing as a den to them,” said Rose, who added that brushy areas also give them cover.

Rose said that people should handle coyotes by simply not enticing them. They should also talk to their neighbors and making sure they are also not enticing them to come into their neighborhood.

He said that coyotes are not a protected species, and thus may be legally hunted. However, they are not allowed to be hunted near dwellings and people need to follow all of their local ordinances.

Mostly, people should take caution to secure their pets, knowing there is always the possibility of coyotes and other prey in Northern Virginia, and most everywhere as no neighborhood is immune from nature.

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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