Roanoke Wildlife

It wasn’t long after we moved here that we made a shocking discovery about who we shared our neighborhood with. No, I’m not talking about the local teenagers; I’m referring to something less noisy and more wily that, we realized, was also prowling about the neighborhood. Our neighbors first warned us to be on the lookout, but it wasn’t until our chickens started disappearing that we took the warnings to heart. Eventually, when we began to hear them late at night, and catch glimpses of them in our backyard, we realized it was true. Our peaceful neighborhood was infiltrated by… coyotes!

Yes, strange to say, the same member of the canine family that roams the prairies of the American West also haunts the streets of Roanoke. Coyotes are a marvel of adaptiveness. They hunt small game, but in a pinch they can survive on carrion and berries; they are usually active at night, but they can boldly carry off unfortunate chickens and pets by day. They have been hunted and pursued by humans for centuries, and yet their range and populations are as great today as they have ever been in North America. Yes, I think we can agree that whatever their foibles, coyotes deserve some respect for their ability to survive.

So what do you do, coexisting in a neighborhood with coyotes? Well, our first step was to reassure the kids, one of whom began to have recurring nightmares of being carried off by coyotes. Thankfully, unless they are deliberately trained otherwise, coyotes will stay away from humans. There are so few recorded instances of coyote attacks on humans that they can be counted on a couple hands – not bad for an animal coexisting with humans from Alaska to Maine.

The second thing – which we learned too late – was to keep an eye on our smaller beloved animals. In areas where coyotes are especially well adapted, pets have been known to disappear at night. In our neighborhood, where the coyotes appear to be quite firmly in control, it’s even worse: our neighbor saw a coyote casually strolling through our yard in broad daylight, carrying our last hen in his mouth. Really, the nerve.

Third, get over yourself and learn to enjoy an occasional late-night serenade. Yes, their whines and yips can be a bit creepy and unsettling, but it’s still better than the local teenagers.

Fourth, if you really feel like your local coyote family is overstepping its bounds – eating your kittens off your doorstep and so forth – certainly call in Animal Control.

Fifth and finally… encourage your school district not to let coyotes into your kids’ elementary school. Yes, I’m serious about this. The pups will learn all they need to know on the streets.

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Tim Carr

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