Presentation educates Matthews officials, citizens on how to handle population increase
In response to a recent influx of coyotes throughout Mecklenburg County, county officials are taking steps to educate town officials and citizens on how to handle the problem.
Chris Matthews, natural resources manager for Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation, spoke at the Matthews town commissioners meeting on Monday, March 12. Matthews gave a presentation outlining the background of the coyote influx, highlighting areas of coyote sightings and explaining the steps citizens can take to safely deal with the situation.
Over the course of approximately five weeks, nearly 700 coyote sightings have been reported in Mecklenburg County. Of those sightings, more than a dozen have taken place in the Matthews area. “We’re definitely seeing coyotes in Matthews, although not as much as in other locations,” he said. County officials plan to speak at a Mint Hill town meeting soon.
The areas that have had the most coyote sightings are some of the more heavily populated areas, such as south Charlotte and the Central Avenue area. Fewer coyotes have been seen in the Matthews area, though sightings have occurred near Elizabeth Lane. There have few reported sightings in Mint Hill.
“I don’t know if people aren’t seeing them or just not reporting them,” Matthews said of the low Mint Hill numbers. “It could be that rural/urban effect, not as many neighborhoods and more tree coverage. People in urban areas are more shocked to see” coyotes.
Matthews said the Charlotte region is one of the last areas in the country to see a significant population of coyotes. Because of the availability of scrap food left in backyards and open trashcans, coyotes are drawn to urban areas.
In addition, coyotes are very adaptable animals and can eat almost anything, Matthews said. They also reproduce at a rapid rate, so it would be virtually impossible to eradicate them from an area.
Matthews isn’t sure what the impact of an increasing coyote population will have on the environment. Coyote presence would likely affect the number of prey species, such as rabbits, squirrels and small deer. Matthews said it’s possible coyotes could bring the prey species’ population back into balance.
“We’ve seen an increase in the deer population,” Matthews said. “Coyotes don’t normally eat deer, but there might be an opportunity for fawns to be taken during fawning season.”
As far as coyote/human interaction, Matthews said not to be too concerned. Coyotes typically don’t like to be near humans, so they often observe human interaction from a distance. He also assured people they don’t need to worry about their children.
“I don’t think people need to be concerned for themselves or for their children,” Matthews said. “A small child might be at a slightly (greater) risk, but I don’t think that’s a concern.”
For pet safety, Matthews suggested feeding animals indoors and keeping outdoor pets inside a fence. He also said it is imperative to keep all pets on a leash when walking them, as loose animals can sometimes be chased or stalked by coyotes.
Matthews does advise citizens to report sightings and keep an eye on strange coyote behavior (coming close to humans, jumping a fence), as this can be an indication of rabies. A rabid coyote was found in south Charlotte’s Cameron Woods subdivison in the fall and had attacked at least eight dogs, none of which were killed.
“There has been nothing aggressive in Matthews, but we do want to keep an eye out for these rabies cases,” he said.
See a coyote?
To report a sighting, visit http://charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/Park
andRec/StewardshipServices/NaturalResources/Pages/Coyote.aspx, and click “Report a Coyote Sighting.”
For immediate assistance call Matthews Animal Control at 704-847-5555.