Outdoors

Your pet looks like ‘a buffet’ to a coyote. Here’s what do if one is in your backyard.

A pack of coyotes were caught sunbathing in a Bay St. Louis backyard on July 28, 2017.
A pack of coyotes were caught sunbathing in a Bay St. Louis backyard on July 28, 2017. Courtesy Sea Coast Echo

They’re arguably the howlin’ wolves of South Mississippi, and it seems like they’re always around, lurking in your backyard and trying to eat your plants or pets.

And they probably aren’t going to disappear any time soon. The landscape, greenery and weather make South Mississippi the perfect place for coyotes.

A Bay St. Louis woman called authorities last week after a pack of coyotes continuously came into her yard to sunbathe before scurrying back into the woods behind her house, according to the Sea Coast Echo newspaper.

“They were lying around in the backyard this morning, making themselves at home,” Mary Zimmerman told Dwayne Bremer and Geoff Belcher on July 28. “There have been five of them. They still come into the yard every day to sun themselves and play and jump around like regular dogs. It’s not like one or two babies, it’s big ones – I would say it’s a pack.”

Dorty Necaise, a Bay St. Louis animal control officer, said he spoke with Zimmerman and has developed a plan to help the Washington Street resident rest easy.

“When we have a situation and we’re notified that there is a pack, then for the safety of the community and safety of the citizens, we will reach out to local trappers and get their assistance to capture the animals.”

However, Necaise said, wildlife such as coyotes and foxes are not going to leave South Mississippi anytime soon. They primarily feed on rodents, he said, so the animals are going to stay in wooded areas where rodents such as rabbits and squirrels are abundant.

And their hunting may always be a pain for homeowners in South Mississippi.

Over the years, coyotes have been spotted in areas throughout Biloxi and Gulfport.. Sun Herald reporter Lauren Walck had a personal run-in with coyotes who were attracted to her sage plant. Luckily, her cat, Clemmie, was spared.

In December 2015, Diamondhead resident Virginia Simons said her 9-year-old Maine Coon, Sylvester, was attacked by a coyote in broad daylight. The feline got away but ran away from home after the attack. Simons was proactive and called authorities, who then alerted animal control.

Necaise said its important for homeowners to know that most wildlife that wander into backyards do not pose a serious threat to humans, including coyotes, foxes, wild hogs, bobcats or raccoons.

People should protect their pets, though.

“Their main source of food is rodents and because it’s so wooded (in Hancock County), we have an abundance of rodents like rabbits,” Necaise said.

And why won’t this wildlife ever go away? Necaise has an easy answer.

“This is like a buffet for them. They’re here and they’re going to keep eating until they eat it all,” he said.

Here are tips from Necaise on how to deal with wild animals like coyotes:

▪ Don’t approach them. Coyotes are usually skiddish around humans, but in places like Bay St. Louis where there are more homes than wooded areas, the animals have become less cautious of people. Allow them to go back into the woods or call animal control for assistance.

▪ Do not feed the wildlife. Wild animals that wander into your yard are hunting in the woods and have enough to eat.

▪ Pick up pet food. Make sure bird seed, dog food and cat food are not left in the yard. Bring the food indoors overnight.

▪ Your pets can become prey. “Watch your pets when you let them out, just like you would watch your children,” Necaise said.

▪ Google it. If you see an animal you’re unsure about in your area, use a search engine tool to find out more about what to do, Necaise said.

▪ Call for help. Animal control officers are more than happy to help.

Necaise, who has been an animal control officer for more than 10 years, says to remember that wildlife is often more scared of you than you are of it.

“Generally, if they see humans, they’re going to go the other way.”

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @JustinMitchell_

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