Henry County Animal Care & Control
Wild Animals: Coyotes
Coyotes are among the non-native wildlife found throughout the southeast. They are largely misunderstood creatures and have a reputation as being a nuisance. They are, however, proving to be an asset in maintaining the balance of wildlife in Georgia.
Coyotes (Canis latrans) resemble a small dog in appearance, weighing between 20—40 pounds, with pointy ears and a slender muzzle. The color of the coyote's coat varies from grayish-brown to yellowish-gray on the upper parts with the throat and belly being buff or white. The forelegs, sides of the head, muzzle and paws are reddish-brown. The back has tawny-colored underfur and long, black-tipped guard hairs that form a black dorsal stripe and a dark cross on the shoulder area.
Part of the coyote's success as a species is its diet. They are opportunistic carnivores; what they eat depends on the season. They primarily eat small mammals, such as moles, mice, rats and rabbits, though they will eat ground birds, snakes, lizards, as well as large insects. Fruits and vegetables are a significant part of the coyote's diet in the autumn and winter months. Coyotes, like vultures, will also eat carrion.
The coyote's range spans the entire North American continent from Alaska down to Central America. While they prefer wooded areas that are bordered by fields and brushy areas to den and hunt for small mammals, they have the ability to adapt and thrive wherever food, water and shelter can be found. Increased numbers of coyote sightings create concerns from landowners for their property and safety. However, there is little need for fear. By nature, coyotes are timid and shy and tend to steer clear of any potential danger. They pose little threat to humans. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t hunt in packs but are primarily solitary hunters. However, sometimes problems do occur as some coyotes become too familiar with humans.
Prevention is the best defense against nuisance coyotes. Small house pets (especially cats), young or small livestock and poultry are most at risk. If a coyote is suspected in an area where domestic animals are roaming free, owners should take precautions to insure their pets’ safety:
- Take pets indoors at night, as this is the coyote's primary hunting time.
- If pets must be kept outside, put up fencing to discourage coyotes.
- Small livestock or poultry should be kept in an enclosure or sheltered area. Coyotes rarely bother larger livestock although they often are blamed for doing so. More often, it is dogs running at large, not coyotes, that harass and attack livestock.
Coyotes are very curious by nature and are often seen, at a discreet distance from people, quietiy watching. This is not abnormal behavior! However, any coyote that appears sick, injured, disoriented or approaches humans is uncharacteristic and may be cause for concern.
If you see a coyote displaying abnormal behaviors, contact Henry County Animal Control at (770) 288-7387.