For the first time, Fairfax County park staff have captured a coyote pup on film. A nighttime game camera captured the images last week of a pup, estimated to be about 12 weeks old, feeding on bait designed to lure animals to the camera at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly.
The cameras previously had captured a male and female coyote pair, likely the parents of the juvenile spotted last week.
“We knew they were breeding here just by behavior,” said Tony Bulmer, a naturalist at the park. However, it was the first time they had proof.
The pup was likely setting out on its own for the first time, Bulmer said.
Coyotes are relatively new to the East Coast, but now live in every state but Hawaii, Bulmer said.
“They’re filling a niche in the ecosystem as a top predator,” he said, taking on a role that wolves used to play before they were eradicated by hunting.
“They’re here now and they’re going to stay here,” Bulmer said.
Coyotes are generally nocturnal. The staples of their diet are small mammals, berries and insects; however, they will take down fawns and sick or injured deer, helping to control the county’s overpopulation of deer.
They also are known to go foraging in backyards for food that is easier for them to get; that is, things that humans leave out.
“They’re very opportunistic,” Bulmer said.
He said if people don’t want coyotes visiting their yards, they should ensure their trash is secure and not feed pets outside.
“Just take the same precautions you would take if you don’t want a raccoon in your backyard,” Bulmer said.
Although the county often gets calls from people concerned about coyotes, Bulmer said that they are most likely to run away if they spot a person. They have been known to occasionally prey on small dogs and cats, he said, so it is recommended to keep animals indoors at night.
However, such incidents are rare. “They’d rather go an easier route” to get food, he added.
If you do spot a coyote, Bulmer recommends keeping your distance and giving the animal its space.
“And consider yourself very lucky, because they are beautiful animals,” he said.
Bulmer said residents can learn more about the county’s coyotes at the Ellanor C. Lawrence Park Nature Center or one of the park’s educational programs about coyotes.