Over the past few weeks there have been a number of reports of coyotes being seen in Fairfax County. Now, wildlife officials think a pet dog may have become the victim of one of them.
The dog had been let out, Sunday night, in the backyard of a house in the 7000 block of Bradley Circle in Annandale. The dog failed to return when its owner called for it a few hours later and it was found dead just outside the yard. Fairfax County police say they’d had reports of an animal that looked like a coyote in the area both before and after the suspected attack.
Wildlife officials say coyotes are now established and widespread in Fairfax County. They’re medium to large sized members of the canine family, which includes wolves, foxes, and dogs. They have pointed and erect ears, a long, slender snout, and a bushy tail pointed downward. Fur coloration varies from reddish-brown to tan, gray or black with a pale blaze on the chest. The tail usually has a black tip and is held downward while running. Coyotes average 30-40 pounds but can weigh as much as 60 pounds.
The officials say that pets left unattended outside may be at risk to coyotes, especially during nighttime and early morning hours. The risk may be greater during the mating season, which is January-March. They say that unprovoked coyote attacks on humans are very rare.
Suggestions from wildlife officials
- Never feed or attempt to “tame” a coyote.
- 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.
- 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. .
- If these techniques do not solve the problem, Virginia regulations allow nuisance coyotes to be removed by a licensed trapper or critter removal service. It is illegal in Virginia to trap and relocate wildlife to another area.
If you see a coyote
- If a coyote is sighted around your home, let it know it will not be tolerated. Use hazing techniques to frighten coyotes from the property or exclusion measures to restrict their access in areas where they are unwanted. In some cases, repeat hazing attempts may be necessary to get a coyote to leave an area.
- Do not run from a coyote.
- From a safe position, 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.
More information on coyotes can be found at
Wildlife Biologist Discusses County Coyotes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iHZY_YGWWg