By conducting whole-genome sequence analysis on 28 canids—including gray wolves, red wolves, eastern wolves, coyotes, and even domestic dogs—the team found that the red wolf is about 25 percent gray wolf and 75 percent coyote, while the eastern wolf is about 50 to 75 percent gray wolf, and roughly one quarter coyote.
Laboratory tests conducted by the Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed that the rabid coyote that was involved in two altercations in Roswell, Georgia’s Leita Thompson Park on July 10 and 11, 2016, did indeed harbor the raccoon variant of the virus.
In other words, this coyote contracted the disease from a raccoon, which is the primary reservoir for the rabies virus here in the southeast.
Raccoons and coyotes are generally antagonistic towards one another, which we discussed in a previous post, so none of this is surprising. Rabid animals generally only live for a short time (5-7 days), so we are almost certain that the same coyote was involved in both incidents and it was killed after the second attack.
As far as we know, rabies in Georgia is a rarity, particularly in coyotes, but we will continue to help monitor the situation in Roswell.
South Carolina has initiated a coyote bounty program. The state’s Department of Natural Resources is incentivizing hunters to kill coyotes with the hopes of reducing coyote populations.
This is yet another sad example of a misguided attempt at controlling predator populations.
The accompanying graphic, which was produced by the Humane Society, shows why killing coyotes as a way to reduce their numbers doesn’t work.
Domesticated dogs and cats are not common prey items for coyotes. Coyotes are essentially omnivores who will eat just about anything, so there is usually an easier meal available than Fluffy or Fido. Nevertheless, pets can be at risk of predation by coyotes in certain instances (e.g., wandering too close to an active den site) and they are occasionally attacked. The CoyoteVest might be an option for some concerned pet owners. Californians Paul and Pam Mott developed CoyoteVest Pet Body Armor after their own dog was killed by a coyote. Check out their website at https://www.coyotevest.com/ for more information.