Coyotes first appeared in South Carolina’s upstate in the late 1970s and have since been found in all counties in the state. COURTESY S.C. DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES

Recently some neighbors reported seeing what they described as “a pack of coyotes” in a local nature preserve and expressed frustration that the local authorities were “unwilling to do something” about the matter.

How dangerous are coyotes? Most experts will tell you that the danger is relatively low. Coyotes are nocturnal and rarely seen. Coyotes are not especially dangerous to humans, including both adults and children. More people are killed by errant golf balls than by attacks from coyotes.

Coyotes, like most wild animals, can pose a problem if they become habituated to humans. This occurs when we intentionally or unintentionally feed them. Some people with the best of intentions will leave food out for animals. With the exception of a bird feeder, this is rarely a good idea.   

Providing food disrupts the coyotes’ natural behaviors, and they will lose their fear of people when they come to see us as a source of food. It may then be necessary for the removal of aggressive coyotes by appropriate experts. 

However, this is true not only of coyotes, but raccoons and alligators. Again, wild animals are best enjoyed from a respectful distance.

But what about pets? Can cayotes pose a danger to our pets? If we let our cats or dogs roam unattended, they will be subject to dangers from many things including raccoons, alligators and snakes – as well as ticks and fleas – in addition to coyotes.

On the other hand, a coyote will tend to avoid even a small dog if it is properly leashed and under the control of its owner. If we allow our pet cats to roam free, coyotes are just one of the dangers they face, not to mention the danger the cats pose to birdlife.

Keeping our pet kitties indoors or letting them out only under supervision is best for our cats.

So how to be safe from coyotes? The most important points are:

• Do not feed coyotes

• Do not let pets run loose

• Do not run from a coyote. Running from any predator can trigger its hunting instinct.

• Make noise.

• Keep calm and alter your route if possible.

• Do not create conflict where it does not exist. If a coyote is acting as a coyote should, by avoiding humans and pets, do not seek out opportunities to aggravate the animal.

• Report aggressive, fearless coyotes immediately to local animal control.

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek. john.a.riolo@gmail.com