Some residents in DeKalb County have fallen prey to unwanted visitors who show up early in the morning and keep residents awake with their boisterous chatter.
These bad-mannered visitors usually come out when there are few people around and, like it or not, some experts like Linda Potter say urban coyotes are here to stay.
Potter, who works for AWARE (Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort), a nonprofit organization based in DeKalb County, said that in many cases coyotes are just as afraid of humans as humans are of them.
“There are small things that we can do to make it less attractive for them to be in our yards,” Potter said.
“We tell [residents] to leave their pets inside or walk them with a leash,” Potter said. “The other thing is you don’t want to attract them by leaving out any food. It’s better if you can feed your pets inside and not leave your garbage outside.”
Decatur City Manager Peggy Merriss said residents need to learn to live with the animals and take precautions to keep themselves and their pets safe.
“Our position is they’re part of the natural habitat and basically the best thing to do is coexist with them,” Merriss said.
Merriss said the city has been dealing with coyotes for years and that the city does not support a trapping or extermination program. She said she doubted it would in the future. This has some residents such as Christy Bosarge concerned that the city is not doing enough to deal with the problem.
Bosarge’s cat Zaya recently was killed by a coyote and said she has spoken with other residents who have had similar things happen to their small pets.
“I think the city has been pretty passive [by] accepting the coexistence stance…they’re not educating us nor do I believe they have any data to make a realistic decision,” Bosarge said.
Bosarge, who lives off East Parkwood Road, said she was trying to rally residents to let city officials know action needed to be taken. She said one thing the city needs is a database to monitor coyote sightings and attacks. Bosarge also said she wasn’t opposed to trapping the animals, if that would solve the problem.
“If that’s a feasible solution to minimizing their impact, then yes,” Bosarge said “These coyotes are evolving and becoming more comfortable in our habitat.”
Potter, like the city of Decatur, said her organization promotes peaceful coexistence rather than trapping coyotes to control their population in urban areas. In fact, she said trapping a coyote has the opposite effect.
“Some people say trap them and get them out of here. But, if you trap a coyote or any mammal it sends a message that they need to breed and the female actually goes into heat and breeds,” Potter said. “Also, once the coyote is trapped it has to be killed.”
Additionally, Potter said recent sightings have made residents concerned that the coyotes might carry rabies.
However, according to a 2010 report on rabies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, out of 375 reported cases last year, only one involved a coyote. Potter said residents were more likely to catch the disease from a pet cat (21 cases in 2010) than from a coyote.
Potter said if residents do encounter a coyote, they should “stomp your feet, wave your hands, bang on something, just basically let them know they’re not welcome.” In most cases, Potter said even eradicating a coyote den would only be a temporary solution because another group of animals would move right in.
“One thing that some folks have found is that if you remove the coyotes you’ll have an increase in rats and mice. All the animals are in balance and if you get rid of one you’ll have some unintended consequences,” Potter said.