PhotoThe yipping and yowling of coyotes is well-accepted in the West but East Coast residents are getting a reminder that the Eastern Coyote is well-established in their midst and not going anywhere.

In fact, pet owners in the Washington, D.C., area have recently been put on alert to bring their pets in at night and to be careful on the wooded trails that wind through many suburban neighborhoods.

In one recent incident, three coyotes attacked an 85-pound golden retriever that was being walked by its owner on a wooded trail near busy U.S. 50 in Fairfax, Va. The owner managed to chase off the critters and the dog survived but was badly bitten.

In Pasadena, Maryland, two coyotes attacked a cat named "Tiger" and injured it so badly it had to be euthanized.

The Eastern coyote, by the way, is bigger than its Western counterpart, weighing about 35 pounds, having been cross-bred with wolves. They are not as noisy as the Western coyote, so it's a little harder to know when they're around.

Although they're thought of as pack animals, coyotes tend to hunt in pairs. They usually hunt at night but will sometimes come out in the daytime. They're very fast and can reach speeds of more than 40 miles per hour.

Coyotes generally prefer to eat small mammals including squirrels, rabbits and mice but are known to attack cats and dogs, even dogs on a leash, when they are unable to find anything else. 

Pet owners in the East are need to take a tip from their Western counterparts and keep a close eye on their pets. Small dogs should not be left alone in yards and all pets should be brought inside at night.

Not all bad

While they're regarded by many as the juvenile delinquents of the canine family, coyotes serve many useful purposes, according to Fairfax County Park Authority biologist Earl Hodnett. He says the coyotes help keep rats and Canada geese under control. Both have become overgrown lately because of a lack of natural predators.

“Coyotes will help clean up the high rat population and other rodents as well, which is a welcome activity,” Hodnett said. In the case of Canada geese, coyotes like eating goose eggs (and occasionally a goose dinner). The Canada geese have become a nuisance to humans and a threat to aircraft.

What should you do if you spot a coyote?

“Nothing,” Hodnett said. “Coyotes generally aren’t confrontational and would rather avoid humans and run away than get in a fight, although they might get into a tug-of-war if you tried to grab away their catch,” he said.



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