Camping at Kanawha State Forest can take a fearsome turn in the wee hours, when the eerie howling of coyotes can sound too close for comfort.
Residents of Loudendale, South Hills and many other suburban areas are more used to the phenomenon, and wildlife officials are reassuring.
For the last 30 to 35 years, coyotes have made a home in the Charleston area as a result of a natural movement from western states.
Although coyotes are larger in the East, they still aren't very big animals. They're comparable to a mid-sized dog and usually range between 20 and 30 pounds.
These extremely adaptable animals often take close residency to people, and some find that disturbing.
Campers and residents have become alarmed by the howling, fearing for the safety of themselves, their pets, and even their food.
Paul Johansen, overseer of the Game Management Program at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, and Ernie Adkins, Kanawha State Forest superintendent, say there is much misconception surrounding coyotes and human danger.
"It would be wrong to characterize them as vicious animals," Johansen said. "They're wildlife, not trying to seek harm or do harm to people.
"They're out there trying to fend for themselves, find enough food to survive, and reproduce. They're just a natural part of the ecosystem in West Virginia.
"I think there's been a lot of false information or stories that have been made up about how dangerous they are. It's a fallacy. Those types of characterizations just aren't true."
Adkins hasn't seen any coyote foul play at Kanawha State Forest.
"We haven't had any problem with any of it," he said. "They won't hurt anyone; they're solitary animals, they stay away from people."
Johansen agrees campers and other park users have nothing to fear.
"I would be much more concerned about getting into a traffic accident going to Kanawha State Forest than running into a coyote that would cause harm there," he said.
Coyotes typically avoid humans; their howls, yips, and yells have a long range, so folks may gain the false impression that the animals are nearby.
"You seldom see one. You may hear them at a distance with a little 'yap' like puppies, but you won't really see them," Adkins said.