Fairfax County reports uptick in coyote sightings

- Fairfax County police are alerting the public about an increase in the number of coyote sightings across the county.

Coyotes commonly prey on small animals -- mice, rats and rabbits -- but they may mistake small pets as prey due to their size. Since they are territorial, coyotes may view larger dogs as potential competitors, especially from January to June while mating.

“The best way to safeguard pets in areas where coyotes are active is to keep them indoors and do not leave them outside without supervision,” said Dr. Katherine Edwards, Fairfax County Wildlife Management Specialist.

According to county leaders, it is important to avoid feeding or unintentionally providing a food source for coyotes because it may result in behavioral changes, including making them less wary of humans or bold and aggressive.

Here are some tips to keep you and your pets safe:

  • Place garbage and compost in an animal-proof container, such as a metal trash can with latches on the lid or secure with bungee cords.
  • Keep trash inside until the morning of trash pick-up whenever possible.
  • Do not feed pets outside or store pet food outside.
  • Pick up ripe, fallen fruit and do not let it accumulate on the ground.
  • Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting small rodents and other coyote prey.
  • Trim shrubbery to ground level to remove hiding cover.
  • Close up all openings under porches/decks, crawl spaces or out-buildings where animals might establish dens.
  • Keep small pets inside and do not leave unattended when outside.
  • Keep dogs on short leashes while walking outside.
  • Provide secure shelters for poultry, rabbits, and other vulnerable animals.
  • Be alert at dusk and dawn. Coyotes are most active at night and early morning hours; however, they may be active during the day in search of food or denning sites.

If you see a coyote, county leaders say it is important to let the animal know that it will not be tolerated and use hazing techniques to frighten it from the property or restrict access.

Here are some tips if you encounter a coyote:

  • Yell and wave your arms at the coyote.
  • Use noisemakers such as whistles, air horns, bells, “shaker” cans full of marbles or pennies, or pots and pans banged together.
  • Throw non-edible objects in the direction of the coyote including sticks, small rocks, cans, or tennis balls.
  • Spray the coyote with a water hose, water guns or spray bottles with vinegar water, pepper spray or bear repellent.
  • Install motion sensor lights or a motion-activated sprinkler around your home.
  • Install fencing to keep coyotes out of yards.

Virginia regulations allow nuisance coyotes to be removed by a licensed trapper or critter removal service, but it is illegal in Virginia to trap and relocate wildlife to another area.

If coyotes are behaving aggressively or appear sick or injured, contact the Fairfax County police non-emergency number at 703-691-2131.

Read more from Fairfax Co. police: http://bit.ly/1Rk5Ngl

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