Three seldom seen ‘devil dog’ black coyotes among 149 coyotes killed in NC hunt

This “spooky black coyote” was photographed in an Alamance County cemetery in 2017, according image posted by N.C. Candid Critters. Facebook screenshot.
This “spooky black coyote” was photographed in an Alamance County cemetery in 2017, according image posted by N.C. Candid Critters. Facebook screenshot.

Three rare black coyotes -- known among hunters as “devil dogs” -- were killed during a large-scale coyote hunting tournament staged outside of Charlotte Feb 8-10.

In all, 149 coyotes were taken in the Carolina Coyote Classic tournament, double the number killed last year, said organizer 704 Outdoors TV.

The animals were bigger, too, with all three top trophies going to coyotes weighing more than 40 pounds, including one that was nearly 42 pounds, according to tournament spokesman John MacPherson.

Black coyotes are highly sought by hunters because they are rare, MacPherson told the Charlotte Observer.

“Black coyotes have been nicknamed ‘the devil dog’ by some, because it just looks so much meaner,” MacPherson said. “They are a beautiful animal, but to see an all black coyote out there is a very crazy looking thing.”

Just over 100 hunters from four states participated in the sixth annual hunt, which was created to reduce the coyote population and lessen its impact on the deer prized by hunters. It is based in Stanly County, but hunting sites this year were spread on private tracts of land across both Carolinas.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission says black coyotes are uncommon and considered more of a color variation than a different type of coyote.

Images of a few black coyotes have been captured in the wild by North Carolina’s camera trap program, Candid Critters, including “a spooky black coyote” photographed in an Alamance County cemetery in 2017.

“The black color comes from dog genes that moved into the coyote population through some hybridization event 50 years ago,” says Candid Critters on Facebook. “Coyotes aren’t known to hybridize with dogs today, but still carry the genetic legacy of this historic cross breeding.”

The Carolina Coyote Classic has sparked controversy in the past, with animal rights advocates like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals complaining the hunt is cruel and ineffective in controlling the coyote population.

Predatory coyotes are a wild canine that was first documented in the state in 1938, according to state data. Attacks on humans are rare, but the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission says an “increasingly bold behavior in coyotes” is spreading as they move into more urban areas in search of food.

At least four people reported being attacked by coyotes in North Carolina last year, including two cases involving children, reported the Charlotte Observer last year.

Video surfaced in December of a pack of coyotes roaming Charlotte’s Sedgefield neighborhood, and in February 2018, a rabid coyote was caught just north of Charlotte, after it attacked a Huntersville family’s vehicle.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.