Coyote Pup Surprises Boat Riders
It doesn’t get much better around here than a sunrise boat trip up the Northeast Cape Fear River. The purpose of this early morning tour was to acquaint some long-time Wilmington native with this reach of the river, which is the proposed site of Titan Cement, one of the largest cement plants in the country. Even residents who have grown up exploring the sounds and creeks of this area can be surprised and awed by the pristine beauty of the Northeast Cape Fear. So close to our population centers, this river remains relatively far from our collective appreciation for the natural beauty of this portion of New Hanover County.
A coyote wanders along the shore of the Northeast Cape Fear River.
Joined by only a handful of early anglers and a myriad of native birds, we were nearly off the river when Mike Giles, our boat captain and the federation’s coastal advocate, spotted a beautiful coyote along the northern shoreline of the river. This young pup was surprisingly unabashed at our presence, even as we circled back around to get a pictures and a better look. This is not just my first sighting on the Northeast Cape Fear River, but my first live coyote sighting ever. Mike, an avid hunter and outdoorsman, has seen them throughout his hunting travels, and has even heard their eerie callings from his home in Hampstead.
This morning’s encounter led me to do a bit of research to answer the questions: Just how rare is a coyote siting in North Carolina and how did they get here?
Coyotes, often depicted as mythological tricksters, figure prominently in Native American cultures, also extending into Eurasian, Canadian and West African mythology. According to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s web site, prior to 1800, coyotes were restricted to the Great Plains region of the United States. They have since expanded their range to include most of North America and into Central America. By the early 1980’s, coyotes were spotted in only nine N.C. counties, presumably due to re-releases or escape from captivity. By 2005, coyotes were present in all 100 counties of North Carolina. This is due in part to their natural range expansion, the relative lack of natural predators to control their numbers and the fact that they are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they can and will eat most anything they can digest.
So, coyotes appear to be here to stay. For me, this doesn’t dampen the excitement of passing so near to one of these beautiful canines. Located less than 10 miles from our heavily populated centers, it also provides more evidence of the relative importance of these undeveloped lands along the Northeast Cape Fear River as migration corridors for many of our wildlife.
-- Tracy Skrabal, senior scientist