Coyote Encounters: Caution is required at this time of year

Roanoke, VA (WFXR) – The chance of coming face-to-face with a coyote increases from January through March. This is because it is the mating season for the wild dog species.

Wolves become more active during the diurnal mating season, which makes them more visible to humans, and increases the likelihood of interaction. In most cases, coyotes avoid human contact, often running before a person can see them.

However, male coyotes become more territorial during mating season, and adult dogs can be seen as threats, especially male dogs.

“There are other dogs that affect them,” said wolf expert and nuisance wildlife hunter Sam Catterton of Catterton and Sons Nuisance Wildlife Specialists. “They are afraid that another male will come and take their mate.”

Catterton says pet owners should be careful when walking dogs near wood lines with access to water because that’s where coyotes are most likely to be at certain times of the day.

“These are just other places you want to be careful about when you’re walking in the evening or in the morning, or just during the day. You want to take that extra precautionary step at this time of year,” Catterton said.

Professional wildlife hunter Sam Catterton marks a prime coyote trail in Roanoke County (Photo: George Knolliff)

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) echoes the call for caution this time of year, not only because of mating season, but also because winter causes food to become scarce. Small pets such as cats and dogs can be potential easy prey, so be careful when leaving pets outside.

Coyotes are not native to Virginia, but have established themselves here due to the excellent habitats and abundant food sources. They are adaptable and can be found in rural, suburban, and rural areas.

A coyote in the wild (Photo: Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources)

While they don’t like interacting with people, the reason they can be found near populated areas is because humans provide easy food sources such as unlocked garbage bowls, pet food left outside, and compost heaps. Shelter is another thing people give unwillingly. Coyotes often use abandoned barns or buildings, crawl spaces, and areas under porches as den areas.

Here are some tips to help reduce the number of coyotes living near you:

  • Securing litter boxes
  • Do not leave pet food and water outside
  • Supervise pets when you leave them outside
  • Wipe brush and excess growth from your property
  • Prevent access to areas under porches and crawl spaces

Although coyotes are more visible and active this time of year, they are rarely a threat, but they are worth being ready for, just in case.

Catterton said as he walked through a wooded area near Mason Creek. “I’d be willing to bet she’d get back into the woods and out of here as quickly as she could, but there’s a chance it won’t, and when it does you want to be ready.”

Catterton suggests having an air horn or whistle with you to make noise to scare the wolf away. If that doesn’t work, DWR suggests throwing rocks or sticks to scare the wolf into backing off. Never run away from a coyote as this may trigger a chase response.

When is the time to call a hunter or animal control?

Catterton says that if the wolf shows no fear of people, or if it becomes aggressive, it’s time to remove the animal.