Local residents have run in with coyote in downtown Natchez

Published 12:01am Sunday, January 20, 2013

NATCHEZ — The residents of Linton Avenue are used to seeing all sorts of critters roaming their back yards, but usually a random deer, turkey or raccoon will not draw the attention of neighborhood resident Smokye Joe Frank.

But in September, an unwelcomed guest arrived that did force Frank to take notice.

“We’ve seen turkeys along the river, and when it gets up to about 48 feet, we will see all sorts of things like deer up and down the streets,” Frank said. “But this was a coyote, here in the middle of town.”

The coyote made people uneasy in the neighborhood, Frank said, and eventually something had to be done.

“Coyotes tend to not be particular about what they eat,” he said. “We had neighbors worried about their cats and dogs, so (the coyote) was put down.”

Coyotes are considered a nuisance animal by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and can be killed year round with very few, if any, restrictions.

The MDWFP policy on nuisance animals includes that landowners may hunt them year-round at any time of day with no caliber restrictions if the property is deeded in their name.

Sightings of coyotes near homes are relatively frequent, but MDWFP Wildlife Bureau Assistant Director Chad Dacus said that is not necessarily because there are more coyotes in the area.

“There have been coyotes in Mississippi since forever,” he said. “I think the reason people see more of them is because of urban sprawl — building neighborhoods in ‘country areas.’ As far as numbers of coyotes, those will go up and down, depending on prey base.”

St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge Director Bob Strader said he has not seen any significant change in numbers of coyote on the refuge, but he believes coyotes may be getting more accustomed to moving around places with a higher human population.

“Two or three years ago, people began to see them more in unusual places, like by the road or places you wouldn’t expect to see them,” he said. “They are an incredibly adaptable animal, and they are going to go wherever there is a food supply.”

Frank said he has seen coyotes at the city cemetery, and he has heard stories of deer hunters seeing them in Church Hill, where he owns land.

Frank and his wife Carol said they have heard coyotes howl at night in Church Hill.

“It is a scary sound,” Carol said. “You will not forget it.”

But Strader said the coyotes may be more howl than bite when it comes to presenting danger to livestock or pets.

“I don’t think they are a threat at all to livestock,” he said. “You’ll see them around houses, and it’s not uncommon in urban areas anymore. But it’s not an every-day occurrence, and I don’t think they are incredibly aggressive towards pets.”

Strader said garbage cans and pet food left outside may be in more danger than the pets themselves.

Reducing the number of coyotes is a tough task, Dacus said, and shooting them when they present a threat is OK, but to control the population takes more work.

“They are extremely intelligent and wary of traps,” he said. “You have to have someone who is an experienced coyote trapper to remove them in numbers.”