Steve Mensing, Editor
♦Last winter after leaving the Fisher Street Library at closing, I toted an armful of books up Jackson and turned the Hall House corner onto West Bank. Halfway up West Bank Street I spotted my neighbor’s golden retriever ”Trooper”. A gentle, easy going and trusting fellow without malice and unlikely ever be recruited as a guard dog. An enjoyable and loyal companion. A few yards from Trooper were the glowing close-set eyes of another dog beneath the street lights. Slightly shorter than Trooper and more compact, this dog edged closer, sizing up Trooper. The slightly smaller tan animal possessed an odd plumed tail. It lowered its head, turning it and baring it fangs. It’s close-set eyes were quite feral. It growled as it edged closer…a coyote.
“GIT!, I shouted, moving rapidly toward it. Within an instant I drew within a few flashing steps of drilling a sixty yard field goal with the coyote’s head. Somewhere in the animal’s primitive brain centers the ”two-legged alpha” warning flashed–the coyote spun around and bolted straight down the center of Bank street. It ran low and very fast in a semi-greyhound’s lope, never veering from the exact center of the street. All the way past Jackson and disappearing into the darkness somewhere on Church. Can’t say as I’ve ever seen a domestic dog behave that way. Regular dogs never adhere to the center of the street and maintain that position for blocks. Something from the wild, something with no car sense or limited urban smarts would do this. A coyote.
I will go on record as a coyote predator. Since coyotes are an enemy of cats and dogs, count me at the top of a coyote’s enemy’s list. Only a possum’s rows of dart like teeth and a great white shark’s double rows of rippers have a coyote’s fangs beat in the sheer malice department. Not by much. I have no appreciation of rattlesnakes either.
Coyotes are now all over Rowan County and are a growing menace inside Salisbury, being sighted in many neighborhoods at night, killing cats, dogs, possums, rabbits and thinning feral cat and dog populations with abandon. Ducks and geese down at the City Park are open season for these nocturnal marauders. Splashing along the banks and creating sudden red mists in the moonlight, coyotes leave a short trail of feathers. Nature takes back. The cunning and swift, as Charlie Sheen would remark: “WINNING”.
Talked to a buddy Will McCubbin the other day, who lives outside the city and raises sheep, knows something about the coyote problem in Salisbury. Frequently Will works in Salisbury’s historic district where he is a major painting contractor.
“Will,” I asked. “Have you heard much about coyotes in Salisbury’s historic district?”
“Yeah,” said Will. “They’re all over Salisbury. Milford Hills, in the parks where they make ducks and geese disappear, and down in the Historic District. They’re doing a major “ethnic cleansing” of the feral cat and dog population in Salisbury. They’re also picking off cats and small dogs kept outside. The only way you can truly be rid of coyotes is to shoot em’. Well of course you can’t be shooting inside of Salisbury’s city limits. Trapping–it doesn’t work well. Coyotes have some survival-based smarts and learn to evade traps. Most of these traps only come up with raccoons. My recipe for trapping isn’t a steel cage. Just dig a pit and put a sharpened stick in it Vietnam style. A coyote won’t be crawling out anytime soon. Effective, but I think PETA would raise a stink. Don’t know if that’s okay with the law either.”
I said: “I know the leg grabber traps are illegal.”
When I lived in New Mexico years ago a rancher offered this sage advice: “The only good coyote is a dead coyote. They’ll go after calves and older slower livestock in a heartbeat. We don’t need coyotes round here. They can cost a rancher a pretty penny. The difference between a profit and a loss. You got to clear out an area because they repopulate fast. You know when they’re around–you can hear their high-pitched cries at night and their nasty yaps. Tether a donkey near your cattle pens–they kick the living crap out of a coyote. Coyotes tend to shy from them.”
Somehow I can’t see someone tying up a donkey to their front porch on Fulton Street in Salisbury. Probably some historic code exists against this coyote control method. Out in Rowan County the choice would be between saving your chickens and your pets or evading donkey dung.
Yesterday on Facebook, Hollie Faerman-Diaz, who lives in Sherill’s Ford where she and her husband Mike raise chickens, told me: “I guess we stirred up the coyotes today. They just attacked one of our chickens. Looks like we’ll be hunting them from the back porch tonight. I’m so sick of it all. Between possums and coyotes we lost our fare share of chickens and rabbits over the past six months. 13 chickens so far. We are out of ideas on how to keep them safe.”
Hollie’s friend Amanda Greer Corriher, from China Grove, said: “Yeah we are too! We had 75 chickens in one house–within a week it was sixty. From there they just kept dwindling. The chickens have no way to fight these critters.”
“Amanda,” I said. “15 chickens? Sounds like Col. Sanders did a drive by.”
The coyote’s appetite isn’t exactly gourmet. On the brighter side they make some other pests disappear and frequently dine on road kill. Generally a coyote’s menu besides cats and dogs includes mice, rabbits, squirrels, deer, red foxes, possums, rats, raccoons, eggs, ducks, and geese. Calves, sheep, and goats are specialties of the house. Coyotes include veggies, watermelons, and some tree nuts in their diet. And please don’t leave out your dog and cat food too long–coyotes make a quick feast of Meow Mix and Gravy Train.
To learn to recognize a coyote check out the images of them on Google or Bing search. Around here coyotes run from tan to gray, and gray-white. Rarely black. They look slightly like smaller German Shepherds–pointed ears, 25 to 45 pounds, bushy plume tails, and long noses like Wylie E. Coyote the cartoon.
It’s said by pest control experts its almost impossible to kill off coyotes or be free of them for long because other coyotes will quickly fill up the vacuum of an empty area. The best method of all of disposing of coyotes is shooting them. Some modern sonic devices will repel them and some fencing will work. Large guard dogs with plenty of chain will perform well, yet a band of roaming coyotes, with a ”never say die” appetite will sometimes encircle a large guard dog and break its legs and tear apart its hamstrings, cutting it down to size. In the morning when the owner comes out he’ll discover the badly mauled remains of Butch, an early morning snack for six to eight coyotes hunting for ”comfort food”.
Know that coyotes while sometimes hunt in packs generally spread out and hunt in pairs or alone. They will revert to pack mentality when they need to defend a territory against encroaching red foxes, wolves, and feral dogs.
And lest we forget. Coyotes also stalk small children and sometimes kill them. So if you have toddlers to 5 year olds in coyote territory never leave them unattended even briefly while its dark outside. For that matter you should never leave a child unattended period. Also some coyote populations are known to carry rabies making them even more dangerous to humans.
Warning: a disturbing photographic reminder that coyotes sometimes attack children:
Urban coyotes are a fact of life in many North American and Canadian urban areas. Chicago has a huge and thriving coyote population, now estimated to be as many as several thousand, so Salisbury and its downtown would make excellent habitats for coyotes. Its said some coyotes dwell deep in the city parks and other coyotes hide under porches waiting for darkness to arrive.