Friday, May 20, 2022

Five things you need to know: Coyotes in Virginia

Yes, Virginia, we have coyotes. They live in every corner of the state, in urban, suburban and rural areas, including the Williamsburg area. Get used to it, they’re here to stay.

Eastern coyote. Photo courtesy Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Among the most adaptable animals on earth, coyotes are considered a nuisance by the state. But since their populations continue to grow, experts say we need to learn to live with them. Here are five things you might not know about the wily creatures.

1. Virginia coyotes are actually a hybrid mixed with wolf, according to studies following their migrations to the East Coast. Data published in 2014 regarding the northeastern coyote indicates that it is 64% coyote, 13% gray wolf, 11% eastern wolf, and 10% domestic dog — not to mention quite a bit larger than its western counterparts.

2. Coyotes are primarily nocturnal, meaning they come out mostly at night; however just seeing them during the day is not a sign of rabies, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says. They are commonly seen during the day in urban and suburban areas and are usually attracted there by a food source or an easily accessed area to make a den such as under porches/decks, crawl spaces or out-buildings. The best way to prevent them from becoming a problem is to not give them a reason to come.

3. Despite some rumors to the contrary, coyotes weren’t introduced to the east to control deer populations. They slowly migrated here, and were first observed in western Virginia in the 1950s. As the nation’s populations of other top predators, like wolves and mountain lions, declined, the cunning coyote moved in to fill the void.

4. Back in 2015, two people were attacked and one bitten by a rabid coyote in York County. Two people who lived off Hornsbyville Road noticed a coyote trying to get to their chickens. When they tried to save the birds, a coyote attacked. One person was bitten and the other scratched, and was exposed to the coyote’s saliva.

5. Virginia has a continuous open season on coyotes with no kill permit required, though you must contact your city, county or town for information regarding legal methods of animal removal. Local ordinances are usually more restrictive than state laws.

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