Coyotes live in every Georgia county and while they may threaten small pets, they pose little risk to humans, said Brent Womack, wildlife biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
“You’re going to find them from swamps to wetlands, from urban areas to suburban,” Womack told the Board of Commissioners at a work session Tuesday.
Lee said county officials can’t do anything to keep the animals at bay.
“You’ve just got to be mindful they’re here,” Lee said.
They’ve been spotted across Cobb.
“Throughout our parks system and a lot of neighborhoods in Cobb, there’s a lot of concern about the neighbors seeing coyotes,” said Eddie Canon, parks services director.
Few diseases can be transmitted from the animals to humans. Rabies may be the disease most notorious, but Womack says it’s a rare occurrence because contagious animals only live between a few hours and two days.
Most of the effects on people are nuisances.
Coyotes have been known to dig holes in lawns, knock over trash cans and destroy property.
“Sometimes we get calls where coyotes, or some other animal that was probably a coyote, has dug up (a) pipe and chewed it up,” Womack said.
Confusion between behaviors of coyotes and dogs can lead to the wild animals getting the blame for actions of their domestic counterparts.
Coyotes don’t kill for sport, Womack said.
“It all boils down to coyotes don’t attack for fun,” Womack said. “If they go after something it’s to consume it.”
Dogs may see attacking an animal as playing and might abandon it without eating.
No attack on a human has been documented in the state, though urbanization has made coyotes more comfortable with humans.
“They can get more bold based on their lack of threat by humans,” Womack said. In rural areas they might be shot and killed, but that is less likely in more developed areas.
The animals are opportunists, he said, and will eat most anything. That includes small pets, food scraps left in open trash cans and pet food.
“Coyotes can be an impact on domestic pets, especially cats that are left outdoors,” Womack said, adding it’s less common for dogs to be targeted by the canines.
He advises pet owners to protect their animals by keeping them inside and keeping a close watch when they must be let outdoors.
“Once it’s outside, it’s part of the natural environment,” Womack said.
The DNR does not provide trapping services, though if the animal wanders onto private property, there is no law against trapping or shooting it if local ordinances allow for the firing of weapons.
But trapping usually isn’t the right answer, Womack said, because that does not remove what is attracting coyotes.
“It’s not like a coyote is staying on a 3-acre site,” Womack said. “They’re covering a wide range of area.”
Outdoor food should be removed and if the animal is seen, it may be warded off by making loud noises, throwing rocks or other deterrents.