Citizens concerned by the growing coyote population in south Charlotte now have a simpler way to reach the county.
Chris Matthews, natural resources manager for Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, recently developed a page, bit.ly/cltcoyotes, where residents can report coyote sightings and find out more about the animal that's been a hot topic for months.
The online form asks for the date, time and location of the sighting. There's also an area on the page for people to give other pertinent information, such as a description of the coyote, the number of coyotes seen and behavior characteristics.
The site was created to handle the influx of resident sightings and catalog the areas in a database.
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Matthews said the county will benefit from the new system of feedback.
"Any time we can involve our citizens in helping us gather data...we can better help them," said Matthews. "We can use the data the citizens provide us and be able to show people exactly where there are concentrations of animals in the county."
People from all over the county have been complaining about coyotes in their neighborhoods, parks and greenways. A number of cats have gone missing, and a handful of dogs have been attacked in neighborhoods along McAlpine Greenway.
A rabid coyote attacked a dog in the Cameron Wood neighborhood in October. The coyote was caught after the county hired professional trappers.
County officials say such cases are rare, but the incident incited public concern.
Coyotes migrated from the Midwest to the Carolinas about 10 years ago, and they tend to settle around large tracts of land, greenways, nature preserves, large parks and creeks.
But coyotes are smart and can adapt well to the ecosystems in any part of the county.
As top-level predators in the area, coyotes (generally around 30 pounds) eat anything they can catch or get a hold of, which includes pet food, trash, chipmunks, opossums and raccoons. Matthews said Park and Rec plans to take the information one step further, and post a map online that pinpoints where the sightings have been.
"I think it will really surprise people how widespread they (coyotes) are," said Matthews.
The county also has posted information and links to pertinent websites, such as the one for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which has a list of licensed trappers people can hire.
Matthews said being able to pinpoint areas with a high density of sightings will help them focus their efforts and limited resources. They'll even meet with residents in the area to educate them on how to deal with the coyotes.
For instance, if residents who normally feed their pets outdoors would start feeding them indoors, that could help disperse the coyote population.
On the site, it mentions they are looking for "casual sightings."
If a coyote is rabid, or if there are documented attacks on pets, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Animal Care and Control can step in. If a small group of animals are causing major problems, Matthews said the county could possibly hire trappers, just as individuals can do.
Just two days after they launched the site, Matthews said nearly 300 people had visited.
More than a dozen citizens have posted sightings. For now there's no email list with updates, but that could change.
"We're just taking it a little bit at a time and trying to get really good ideas," said Matthews.
"It's going to be a great tool for us to gather information, and we hope it will provide citizens with the knowledge that we're out there listening."