Memo-10-11-2016-Item15

MEMO TO: Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM: Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT: Coyote Management Program - Summary & Suggested Motions

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider a recommended program for coyote management at the October 11 meeting, and also consider an ordinance amending Chapter 8 – Animals – of the Code of Ordinances regarding the trapping of coyotes.  Police Chief Jeff Waters will discuss the recommended program with the Board, and Evin Stanford and Chris Kent, biologists with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NC WRC), will also attend the meeting to offer their insights and answer any questions about coyotes.

As discussed with the Board in recent months, there are believed to be several coyotes active in Emerald Isle.  Sightings of coyotes have been reported near The Point, in Pointe Bogue, in Lands End, in Emerald Isle Woods Park, in Osprey Ridge, near Emerald Landing, on Janell Lane, near the large vacant tract behind the Town government complex, near Lee Avenue, on Canal Drive near Craig Drive, at the public boating access area, near Bogue Sound Drive, and near the Eastern Ocean Regional Access.  I suspect that coyotes have also been observed in other neighborhoods in Emerald Isle, but not reported to Town staff.  It is believed that some of these sightings involve the same coyote family groups, and we are uncertain exactly how many coyotes are living in Emerald Isle.  Based on observations and discussions with NC WRC staff, the coyote population is estimated to be in the 10 – 20 range.  Coyotes have also been observed in Indian Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, and Atlantic Beach, and in other mainland communities in recent months. 

NC WRC staff addressed the Board earlier this year, and noted that there has never been a recorded, unprovoked attack by a coyote on a human being in North Carolina.  Attacks by coyotes on smaller wild and domestic animals are more common, and in Emerald Isle there have been several observations of coyotes carrying small wild animals in their mouths, presumably back to feed their young.  In the past year, there have been three incidents in Emerald Isle involving domestic animals reported to the Police Department:

  • September 2015 – a small dog was found dead in a yard along Coast Guard Road, however, NC Wildlife Resources Commission staff was unable to determine whether the dog had been killed by a coyote or another dog.
  • March 2016 – a Chihuahua was attacked by coyotes on Canal Drive near Craig Drive, however, the owner was able to scare the coyotes away and the dog was not seriously harmed.
  • September 2016 – a resident reported an aggressive coyote growling at the resident and her dog while walking along Lee Avenue near Archers Creek.

There may have been other incidents involving domestic animals, however, the three noted above are the only incidents reported to the Police Department.  Additionally, there have been a few reports of feral cats (that some consider to be pets) believed to have been killed by coyotes. 

Until now, the Town’s approach has been to simply monitor these issues, and have the Police Department take immediate action for any in-progress incidents that may be reported (there have been none requiring immediate Police Department action).  With more residents and property owners expressing concerns in recent months, Chief Waters and I are now recommending the coyote management program outlined in the attached memo from Chief Waters, and authorized in the attached ordinance amendment.

As noted in Chief Waters’ memo, we are recommending that that Town authorize the trapping of coyotes on private property by our residents and visitors, at their discretion, subject to the requirements outlined in the attached ordinance amendment.  Emerald Isle Police Department staff have reviewed the list of licensed (by the NC WRC) coyote trappers for Carteret County, and have attempted to contact each licensed trapper to learn about their interest, preferred methods, and fees.  Based on this research, the Town has prepared the attached list of licensed coyote trappers that are interested in trapping opportunities in Emerald Isle and whose methods would be compliant with the attached ordinance amendment.  A total of 6 trappers are included on the list, and their fees range from “free” to $50.00.  Trappers who offer their services for free to the Emerald Isle property owner intend to sell the captured coyote to legal hunting dog training facilities, which allows them to offer the trapping service at no cost to the property owner.

The recommended coyote management program and the attached ordinance include the following key elements:

  • coyote trapping would be allowed in Emerald Isle, either during the established NC WRC season (December 1 – February 28), or at other times of the year with a depredation permit issued by the NC WRC,
  • the decision to trap coyotes would be solely up to the private property owner, who would make arrangements with a licensed trapper included on the attached list (the Town will publicize this list to our property owners via various public information platforms),
  • because the private property owner is making this decision, he / she will be knowledgeable of the location and timing of traps and can take any necessary precautions that he / she deems best,
  • only “soft catch” traps would be permitted in Emerald Isle, and these traps do not result in the death of the animal trapped,
  • any captured coyotes would need to be removed from Emerald Isle, and could not be euthanized within the Town limits; the Board should note that some captured coyotes would likely be euthanized at a location outside of Emerald Isle or would be sold to a legal hunting dog training facility,
  • trapping activities, captured coyotes, and other information must be reported to the Police Department, and
  • accidental trapping of domestic animals must be reported to Police Department immediately.

We anticipate that the majority of coyote trapping activities would occur during the established coyote trapping season (December 1 – February 28), and Town staff would have sufficient time to publicize this program before December 1 if the Board approves the recommended program.

Additionally, the Board may wish to consider directing Town staff to arrange coyote trapping activities on certain Town-owned properties.  Potential Town-owned properties where traps could be set include Emerald Isle Woods Park, the Town government complex (near the creek), and the public boating access area.  Coyote sightings have been reported in each of these areas in recent months.

If the Board approves the recommended program, we intend to reach out to Indian Beach, Pine Knoll Shores, and Atlantic Beach to gauge their interest in a similar program.  If similar efforts are not undertaken in neighboring communities, it is likely that new coyotes will migrate from these areas into Emerald Isle in the future to take over the territory previously dominated by any coyotes removed from Emerald Isle.  A common effort among all of the nearby towns will likely increase the effectiveness of the Town’s efforts.

I have again attached information sheets about coyotes for your review (Attachment 1, Attachment 2), in case they are helpful to you in formulating your position on this issue.  Chief Waters and I look forward to discussing this issue with the Board at the October 11 meeting.