Whitehall-Coplay Press

Monday, May 27, 2019

Resident concerned about coyote sightings in Stiles

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Local News

Police chief says animals common in area, offers tips to those who see them

Coyotes are found in all counties across Pennsylvania, but most people never see the secretive canine.

That is what concerns Whitehall Township resident Randy Fritz, who said he has spotted one of the elusive predators at least seven times in the last month.

Fritz, who lives in the Stiles section of the township, said he recently spotted a coyote near the basketball court at Stiles Playground, Chestnut Street, just after dusk.

He said he also has seen a coyote outside the fence around the baseball field, as well as by the quarry and along the Ironton Rail Trail.

“To see them so close to neighborhoods is unusual,” Fritz said. “Early in morning or just after sunset, they are up and moving.”

He said one of his neighbors reported he had seen a pair of coyotes in the parking lot by the basketball court early one morning before he went to work last week.

Fritz also said he has heard coyotes howling in the Whitehall Township Parkway at night.

Fritz said he called Whitehall Township Police Department, which referred him to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Whitehall Township Police Chief Michael Marks said there is not much police can do about coyote sightings.

“Coyotes are relatively amicable creatures that are not normally aggressive toward people,” Marks said. “Odds are when a resident calls about a coyote sighting, the animal will be long gone upon police arrival.”

He said coyotes are common throughout the Lehigh Valley and thrive in the “borderlands” environment where the suburbs meet forests.

He said if a resident encounters a coyote that is aggressive, the individual should contact the police or the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The police department will work with the Pennsylvania Game Commission in setting traps to capture the animal — or as a last resort, the animal may need to be euthanized.

According to the game commission, there has been a significant increase in furbearing animals, like coyotes, in recent years because there is less market for pelts. In addition, expanding communities and new developments have pushed animals into more urban areas.

Coyotes usually weigh 35 to 40 pounds and can be mistaken for a dog.

Marks said coyote attacks on people are extremely rare, but they have been known to attack dogs, cats and other small mammals.

Fritz is concerned about people walking their dogs at dawn and dusk and about pet cats that may go outside.

“I’m worried someone might get hurt,” he said. “They are coming through for a reason, and I want to warn people.”

Coyotes are mainly carnivores but also are opportunistic. To discourage coyotes, Marks recommends residents secure their garbage and not put pet food outside. He said birdseed also can attract coyotes, which will eat both fallen seeds and prey on birds that are attracted to the feeder.

He said if anyone spots a coyote in their neighborhood, he or she should try to frighten it away with loud noises or yard lights. If approached by a coyote, do not turn your back or run away, Marks said. Instead, make loud noises, throw rocks and keep yourself between the coyote and small children.

Coyotes also can carry rabies, so make sure pets are vaccinated and on a leash.