The story of the coyote is one of adaptability and survivability. And these days, you can find them in every county in North Carolina.

In March, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission released a plan to manage the coyote population.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway: we're going to have to learn to coexist with them.

But many residents are worried the coyote population is putting pets and even people in danger.

To find out more, WFDD's Sean Bueter called up wildlife biologist James Tomberlin, who says these shy, wily canines have spread across the continent at an amazing speed.

Interview Highlights

On the lightning fast speed with which coyotes have spread across the continent:

Since westward expansion several hundred years ago, we've been persecuting coyotes on the western side of the Mississippi River through hunting and trapping and things like that. And they have persisted and, as we've seen, expanded so their ability to adapt their behavior to persecution and to what people do also makes them very successful. And how they respond to outbreaks of disease or, you know, where predators have been removed...just their ability to adapt to that local environment has led to their success.

On whether or not North Carolinians should be worried about the coyote population:

Well, we certainly need to be vigilant. [But] coyote attacks on people are very, very rare.

Coyotes, in general, are fairly wary of people. And that's important that we maintain that wariness in coyotes and that comes with harassing them if they're coming around the house. Persecution – like through regulated hunting and trapping – maintains that fear of humans in coyotes. And that's important that we do that.

On what to do if you encounter a coyote:

There's a pretty broad spectrum of our activities [where] it wouldn't be uncommon to see a coyote. But in general, you don't approach a coyote. Don't feed it. Make sure they know you're there. Don't be intimidated by them. You want to speak firmly and loudly. Clap your hands. If you're able to, harass them with the water hose or throw a tennis ball or something like that at them just to provide some negative reinforcement for them to be around the house.

Another good thing: you don't want to turn and run from a coyote – or a predator in general. That just triggers some natural instincts in that predator to chase.

(Ed.: This transcription has been lightly edited for clarity.)

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