Coyotes Spotted on Some Golf Courses
A Pinehurst golfer has a novel excuse for a lost ball - a coyote ran off with it.
Recent sightings of coyotes on and near golf courses Pinehurst No. 5 and No. 6 and in Pinewild are bothering residents with small pets, but animal control and wildlife officials report that there is no serious danger to human beings.
Earle Hightower, a Pinewild resident who grew up with coyotes in Utah and Colorado, said coyotes pose little danger to humans."
With small pets, it is a different story. However, Hightower said, coyotes usually leave large dogs alone.
Al Carter, animal control director for Moore County, estimates there are hundreds of coyotes in the county. He said they will be here for years to come.
But coyotes are actually the responsibility of the N.C. Wildlife Commission, not county Animal Control.
Sgt. Mark Dutton, the commission's enforcement officer in Moore County, said coyotes are expanding their territory throughout North Carolina because the region offers no natural predators to keep their numbers under control.
It is legal to hunt coyotes six days a week, Monday through Saturday, in North Carolina. Dutton said the hunter can use a firearm or a trap during daylight hours, beginning half an hour before sunrise and continuing until half an hour after sunset. Hunting is prohibited on Sunday and at night.
Dutton said local regulations apply, however, and this means that no one can shoot a coyote in most municipalities. Pinehurst, like most municipalities, has an ordinance prohibiting the discharge of a firearm within village limits. Trapping regulations likewise apply in many jurisdictions.
"They're no cause for major danger," Dutton said
Carter said his agency will handle a coyote if it appears to be rabid. He added that the coyotes spotted in and around Pinehurst do not appear to be rabid because they still have their motor skills. They just appear to be sly and wily, similar in character to the comic strip character.
"They are not dangerous to humans," he said. "Now, cats and dogs are another story."
Sightings have generated a series of calls to the Pinehurst Police Department, which has dispatched officers on each occasion. Golfers and residents walking their dogs have developed a communications system in which they call all neighbors with pets after they spot coyotes.
"I shined my flashlight on him for at least five minutes, and he just stared at me from under a hilltop," said one woman who spotted a coyote at the 16th hole on Pinehurst No. 6 while walking her dog at 9 p.m. Saturday.
She described the encounter in an e-mail to Maureen Burke-Horansky, founder of Animal Advocates of Moore County, who has circulated pet warnings to everyone in her e-mail address book.
Another Pinewild resident recently reported seeing a coyote two weeks ago while he was out on a golf cart with his dog about 7 a.m. He recalled that rabbits used to be common in the area but now he rarely sees one.
Coyotes 'Avoid Danger'
Hightower admitted that he has a sentimental attachment to coyotes and admires their survival skills.
"In the West, they devised a trap using cyanide, which would be sprayed into the coyote's mouth when it ate a piece of beef," Hightower said. "They also hunted them from airplanes and placed a generous bounty on them. The coyotes are very smart."
Hightower emphasized that coyotes are not dangerous to humans and said there are no recorded attacks on humans.
"Of course, I wouldn't want them to eat my cat," he said. "I have a dog who is about the size of a coyote and looks somewhat like one. We moved down here from Montgomery County, Md., which had a big influx of coyotes shortly before we moved. One almost bumped into me while he was chasing a rabbit through my backyard."
Hightower said coyotes do not ordinarily tangle with a dog their size because they are too smart to risk being wounded. He said the exception might be a situation in which a dog comes too close to its den when there are pups inside.
Ranchers in Utah and Colorado tried unsuccessfully to eliminate coyotes with traps and poison, but only managed to upset the balance of nature, according to Hightower.
"The coyotes kept the ground squirrels in check, and when they eliminated the coyotes, the ground squirrels proliferated, leaving holes in the ground which the horses and cattle stepped into, resulting in broken legs," Hightower says.
Hightower fears that reports of sightings in Moore County are blowing up the danger and causing needless distress, although he said it is wise to keep family pets in check.
"I agree that they are a danger to cats and small dogs," Hightower said. "Coyotes don't like to encounter dogs anywhere near their size. Like all wild animals, they avoid danger whenever necessary. Getting wounded in a fight isn't a good way to survive."
Paul Tillman, a certified wildlife agent with the N.C. Wildlife Commission, said coyotes have been migrating into North Carolina since the early 1980s and their numbers are continuing to grow.
"Every county has them, but Moore County is going to have a big crop because we have the perfect habitat for them - lots of open fields and wooded areas. They will continue to increase and will be here long after we are gone," Tillman told a Pinehurst group at a recent meeting.
Tillman said coyotes build dens on the edge of woods. Coyotes have been seen on No. 6 in the area between the 12th green and the 13th tee, and he believes they have dens in the wooded areas abutting the course.
"If you have a cat or small breed dog, be very careful," Tillman said. "Keep dogs on a leash. Generally, if you are walking a dog, coyotes are curious about the dog but won't attack. They like cat meat so if you put a cat out at night, you do so at your own risk."
Tillman, a member of the county animal control staff and informally known as the "critter gitter," said coyotes differ from wolves although they do occasionally travel in packs and have been known to attack a cow. It is more likely that they will take a calf, rather than an adult cow.
"They fear humans," he said. "Coyotes are not dumb. They can sense danger so traps are not very successful. Traps can also get cats and dogs by mistake. So it seems we have to learn to live with them."
Tillman recommended that anyone having a problem with coyotes in Pinehurst call the police department.
The coyote is one of four wild animals for which state law requires euthanasia if captured outside their habitat. The other animals are foxes, raccoons and beavers.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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