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The Umstead Coalition 
Celebrating Umstead State Park since 1934!

Coyotes: Our Furry Forest Ninja

01/14/2020 4:53 PM | Billy Drakeford (Administrator)

I remember trail running at small county park in Plano, Texas, some years back, and I cut off a side trail and came face-to-face with a coyote coming from the opposite direction. We froze six feet from each other, and he showed no signs of animosity. His yellow eyes possessed equal parts of awareness, curiosity, and intelligence. I don’t know how long this moment lasted ‘til he loped off to the right, but I still remember his eyes so vividly.

I ask kids which animal was known as the trickster/creator/fool/magician by many native American tribes. No answer. When I next compare this animal to ninjas with their skills to live or move through an area unseen, disappear quickly, have a multitude of tricks up their sleeves, yet currently have more reported sightings in Wake County than other N.C. counties, the kids get interested but still have no answers. It proves the old maxim: out of sight out of mind.

Coyotes are indeed among us, in all 100 North Carolina counties, and they have proven themselves unstoppable, unlike the mountain lion and some bears and wolves, which were driven/hunted/trapped out of the East. The smaller, stealthier and more adaptable coyote has withstood all attempts to drive its population down. In the Carolinas, you can hunt coyotes all year with a hunting license and this hasn’t put a dent in their population. Even if you could reduce the local coyote population by 90%, studies have shown that they can replace the population numbers in 5 years.

Rangers here in Umstead see coyotes frequently, but we still tell each other each time we see one. One has a route that comes about 150 yards from my residence; often enough to make me nervous with my four-year-old playing in the yard by herself. Coyotes rarely attack people, but attacks are happening here and there throughout the state, both rabid and non-rabid coyotes. The problem is likely to increase in the future; just read about packs roaming neighborhoods in Charlotte. The following link is about little girl from Illinois that would have been attacked had she not turned around at the last millisecond. 

Coyotes are in the season of love right now, and the Alpha couples are still courting or have already mated by now here in the South. Gestation is generally around 63 days, and litter size (4-7) adjusts for population density and food abundance. At my boyhood home in South Carolina, I became good at locating grey fox dens, but to date, the coyotes have skunked me. I continually look in tight brushy areas for a hole entrance being around one foot wide, and I remain hopeful.

Pups can be seen as early as three weeks outside their den, and their parents — and sometimes young from the previous year — feed and care for them. They disperse in autumn or winter with a typical dispersal range from 25 to 100 miles. This is the most dangerous time of their lives, and mortality is frequently high. If they make it to adulthood, they survive by being so adaptable in their ways and diet. According to Mark Elbroch (fantastic author on tracking and animals), a study in Missouri identified 47 animal and 27 plant foods that coyotes eat. That is a diverse diet indeed.

I’ll end this article with a quote you might have heard: “In case of a nuclear holocaust, cockroaches will be the only survivors.” People who know coyotes will probably add them to this list. Enjoy a good audio of coyote sounds that might help you discover that coyotes live close to you.

Know more to see more,

Ranger Billy

The Umstead Coalition

We are a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the natural integrity of William B. Umstead State Park and the Richland Creek Corridor.


The Umstead Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.