OXFORD — A reader recently contacted The Star Democrat with concerns after spotting a coyote in Oxford.
The nocturnal creatures have called Maryland home “for quite some time,” with the first documentation in the state in 1972, according to Rick Walls, Department of Natural Resources Regional Wildlife Response manager and Wildlife & Heritage Service biologist.
Maryland and Delaware have the distinction of being the last two states in the contiguous United States to be colonized by coyotes, according to DNR.
Though DNR does not survey coyotes for population statistics, Walls said the animals are fairly common in this area. He said there is a common misconception that coyotes are brand new here, and coyote sightings are usually novel and generate a lot of interest.
“It is definitely a possibility that coyotes are anywhere in Talbot County,” Walls said. “...They are not any more dangerous than foxes or bobcats, found on the western Shore.”
Walls said it is not of coyotes’ nature to instinctively harm humans, as they would much rather keep away from people. In fact, there has never been a report of a coyote harming a person in the state of Maryland, according to Walls.
Livestock aren’t as fortunate however, with sheep and chickens often bearing the brunt of the blow. Coyotes are in turn the subject of trapping and hunting, Walls said.
Coyotes could be lured to humans by food, however, and Walls said unusually friendly coyotes or nuisances with any wildlife across the state can be reported to DNR at 877-463-6497.
Upon encountering a coyote, Walls advises making lots of noise to harass the animal to get it to move on. Coyotes sometimes take small dogs and cats, and while Walls said there is no documented confirmation of such in Maryland, he advised keeping pets indoors at night.
According to DNR, an average adult coyote weighs between 30 to 40 pounds, with some individuals approaching 60 pounds. They possess typical canine features and generally resemble a small German shepherd dog. They have large erect ears, an elongated sharp muzzle and a long bushy tail.
Overall pelt coloration tends to be brown or buff interspersed with mottled gray or black. The chin, throat, chest and stomach are usually a lighter shade of brown or cream. The lower frontal portion of the legs may display black stockings and the tail has a black tip. Non-typical color phases occur infrequently.