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Coyotes invade area, may kill outdoor pets

Coyote populations continue to encroach on urban areas in West Virginia and state wildlife officials say residents must learn to co-exist with the animals.

"There's been millions poured into coyote control out west -- it doesn't work," said Curtis Taylor, chief of wildlife services for the state Division of Natural Resources. "If you start killing a lot of them, they just increase their reproductive rate."

Coyotes actually thrive in urban areas, and Curtis said it's best for people to learn how to avoid them.

"There's not much control in urban areas," he said. "They're here to stay."

Sightings are reported all over town, but for some South Hills residents, the animals are getting too close for comfort.

Debbie Cobb, who cares for a colony of feral cats in her Circle Road neighborhood, said two of the cats have been killed in recent weeks. She suspects it was the work of coyotes.

On the morning of Oct. 4, Cobb found Sylvester, a 14-year-old black and white feline, dead near her house. His body showed clear evidence of having been a meal for another animal.

"I'm really upset about it," she said. "I think he didn't even know what hit him."

Another of Cobb's cats had a similar fate.

Cobb's neighbors have also had recent run-ins, whether it was reports of missing pets or people actually seeing coyotes on their property.

"We're just getting overpopulated with them," she said. "They're getting pretty brave."

Cobb called city police to report Sylvester's death.

Charleston humane officer Thaddeous Boggess responded to that call. Although he doesn't get a lot of calls about coyotes, he said people often tell him in passing that they are becoming a problem.

"When I'm out on routine calls, I have people stop me and tell me they have coyotes," he said.

City police don't keep exact numbers of coyote-related calls unless there was a police report written about the incident, said Lt. Aaron James, a Charleston police officer.

Other South Hills residents have also said they've seen coyotes.

Oakmont Road resident Marty Majors saw one a few years ago while driving.

"We hear them in the woods behind my house," she said. "They yip. It just echoes. It's scary."

She's worried about children in the area.

"There have been people missing pets around here," she said. "We have families with small children. I'm just wondering how safe they are to walk."

Coyotes have been known to inhabit the hills around Charleston for years. The species began migrating from western states years ago, and started to take up residency in the Mountain State in the 1970s.

Since then, reports -- and concerns -- have increased. Just this summer, campers at Kanawha State Forest expressed unease after hearing coyotes' "yips" overnight. There have also been sightings in the Edgewood area.

Taylor said past practices of large-scale killing doesn't work, and that modern practices are to target individual coyotes.

He said there are ways for residents to try to reduce their interaction with coyotes and avoid conflicts.

"Don't leave food outside on your deck or porch," he said. "We really caution people about doing that. Same thing with trash."

Even birdfeeders can be a problem, Taylor said, because they attract birds and rodents -- common prey of coyotes.

"If you don't want wildlife around, remove the food source," he said. "You don't know what's in your yard at night."

Since coyotes are most active from dusk to dawn, Taylor advised keeping pets in safe places during those times.

"If you've got an outside cat, that's asking for trouble," he said. "Leaving your cat out at night, that's a risky thing. The best thing to do is don't leave your dog or cat out at night."

Should you come into contact with a coyote, Taylor recommends making eye contact and giving it space, as with any wildlife.

Though calls to authorities aren't normally advised, Taylor said if a coyote appears to be sick or aggressive, contact the district DNR office for assistance.

Kanawha and Putnam counties are part of DNR's District 5, and that office can be reached at 304-759-0703 for the law enforcement division or 304-675-0871 for the wildlife resources division.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at or 304-348-4817.


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