Special Report: Running Wild in the Outer Banks

OUTER BANKS, N.C. (WAVY) – People living along the Outer Banks of North Carolina say they are growing increasingly concerned by the presence of coyotes.

10 On Your Side spoke with several residents, up and down the island, who claim that pets have been taken as prey, and people have been stalked on walks across their neighborhoods.

“They’re very quiet, and sneaky,” said Kay Cole, of Corolla.

Cole told 10 On Your Side that coyotes killed two of her dogs as they were roaming her property.

The first attack happened in Fall of 2015, when coyotes came for her Jack Russell, “Rosie.”

“I heard a scuffle and I ran down [off the deck] and there was a coyote standing there with her in the mouth; he had her by the scruff of the neck.”

Rosie broke free from the coyote that time, but not during another attack months later.

Cole got another dog, a Pomeranian named “Charlie.” One night this year, Charlie was on Cole’s deck. Again, Cole heard a scuffle and when she came out to find Charlie, the dog was gone.

“It’s horrible, I can’t have a pet and you know I won’t get another one until something’s resolved, or I move. I just wouldn’t risk losing another dog like that; it’s sad.”

Cole is among several residents who have contacted the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), requesting that something be done to get rid of the coyotes.

Carole Garrett, of Duck, sent a petition to the commission, with the same request. It states that coyotes are becoming a “growing menace.”

Garrett says she’s afraid to walk her small dog up and down her residential street, and suspects coyotes may have killed her outdoor cat.

But Chris Turner, Coastal Regional Wildlife Biologist with the NCWRC, says that staff members do not actually remove coyotes.

Staff is, however, working with OBX communities to inform residents on nuisance wildlife issues. Next month, the commission is hosting a “coyote conflict management workshop” in Southern Shores.

Turner said that, indeed, coyotes can consider small animals as prey. He encourages residents to keep a close eye on small pets, have them on leashes and, if possible, keep animals within fences or indoors.

“Any food sources such as pet food, trash, and table scraps should be limited or disposed of so wildlife is not unintentionally fed around residential areas,” he said.

When 10 On Your Side visited the Outer Banks, our crew did spot a coyote, during the afternoon hours, by the Wright Brothers Park.

People walking the trail stated that they frequently see them there.

One woman told us that a coyote even chased her and her Labrador in the area.

“It was terrifying,” said Sherry Rollason, who hasn’t taken the same walking route since. “It was the fastest I’ve ever run in my life.”

Turner told 10 On Your Side that it is rare for coyotes to show unprovoked, aggressive behavior towards people. He is not aware of any confirmed, unprovoked attacks in all of North Carolina, and said that rabies has not been an issue with the state’s coyote population.

“Instances seem mainly to be tied to the presence of pets with people, food habituation, or even coyote pairs protecting den sites containing pups.”

Rollason suspects she and her dog may have been too close to a den. She hopes to never face that sort of confrontation again.

She and several other residents told 10 On Your Side that they only started seeing the coyotes on the Outer Banks within the last five years.

Turner shot down rumors that the coyotes had been brought to the area or “stocked” there, and said that instead, the coyotes naturally moved into the habitat there.

They are currently in every county in North Carolina.

“The species is a generalist species that can use a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, openings, dunes, etc.” he said. “They use a big area and are capable of traveling very long distances.”

Turner said that coyotes can be hunted and trapped by people with licenses to do so, but only during regulated hunting and trapping seasons. Seasons and regulations vary by county or region.

For specific information on trapping coyotes, go to this link.