Over the last several months, Fairfax County Police said wildlife officials have received an increasing number of calls about the presence of coyotes in the area.
A statement acknowledged the scavenging animals are “now established and widespread in Fairfax County so it is important for residents to know and understand a bit more about them.”
As foragers, coyotes eat a wide variety of food, from small prey animals to fruits and plants. They are also territorial, especially so from January until June during mating and birthing season, and can be aggressive towards other animals.
In the statement, Fairfax County Wildlife Management Specialist Dr. Katherine Edwards said, “The best way to safeguard pets in areas where coyotes are active is to keep them indoors and do not leave them outside without supervision.”
For other precautions, Fairfax County Police additional recommendations include:
Place garbage and compost in an animal-proof container, such as a metal trash can with latches on the lid or secure with bungee cords.
Keep trash inside until the morning of trash pick-up whenever possible.
Do not feed pets outside or store pet food outside.
Pick up ripe, fallen fruit and do not let it accumulate on the ground.
Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting small rodents and other coyote prey.
Trim shrubbery to ground level to remove hiding cover.
Close up all openings under porches/decks, crawl spaces or out-buildings where animals might establish dens.
Keep small pets inside and do not leave unattended when outside.
Keep dogs on short leashes (less than 6 feet) while walking outside.
Provide secure shelters for poultry, rabbits and other vulnerable animals.
Be alert at dusk and dawn. Coyotes are most active at night and early morning hours; however, they may be active during the day in search of food or denning sites.
If a coyote does appear, police offer this encouragement to communicate to the animal it isn’t welcome:
Yell and wave your arms at the coyote.
Use noisemakers such as whistles, air horns, bells, “shaker” cans full of marbles or pennies, or pots and pans banged together.
Throw non-edible objects in the direction of the coyote including sticks, small rocks, cans, or tennis balls.
Spray the coyote with a water hose, water guns or spray bottles with vinegar water, pepper spray or bear repellent.
Install motion sensor lights or a motion-activated sprinkler around your home.
Install fencing to keep coyotes out of yards. Fencing should be at least 6 feet tall, have an outward slanting overhang or roller-type device to prevent coyotes from climbing or jumping, and have an L-shaped mesh apron buried one to two feet to deter digging. Few fences are completely coyote-proof.
In the event a coyote is spotted acting aggressively or appears ailing or injured, individuals can report the animal by dialing the Fairfax County Police non-emergency number 703-691-2131.
For more information, the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline is 855-571-9003, available 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.