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Are there really coyotes in suburban Northern Virginia?!

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Recently, an Annandale resident posted on the website Nextdoor a photo of what appears to be coyote in his backyard, noting that there are THREE known to live in his Columbia Pines neighborhood. That post unleashed a torrent of comments from nearby neighborhoods with their own stories of seeing – and hearing – these secretive and potentially dangerous animals.

One commented that she had seen a coyote “loping down the middle of 28th Street in Arlington.” Another suspected coyotes as the chief suspect for whatever’s been digging at the chipmunk burrows in her yard.

The video posted by Pinecrest-area resident William Hohenstein, however, is haunting! For 20+ seconds, viewers can hear what sounds like an entire pack of coyotes howling … and howling and howling! He said that sirens will trigger them.

“[Coyotes] are now an established part of our local community and can be found in virtually every area within Fairfax County,” said Katherine Edwards, a certified wildlife biologist and wildlife management specialist in an interview posted by Fairfax County on YouTube.

So … it seems the answer to that initial question is a resounding “yes! There really are coyotes sharing our suburban neighborhoods!”

For the most part, coyotes really don’t pose a threat to us humans. According to the Fairfax County Police Department’s Animal Services Division, “Unprovoked coyote attacks on humans are very rare. In most cases where coyotes have acted aggressively, a coyote is responding to the presence of a dog, is in close proximity of a den with pups, or has become too comfortable around humans …”

Pets, however, could be at risk, especially during nighttime and early morning hours. Coyotes may consider small, unattended pets – including cats and small dogs – as prey due to their similar size to natural wildlife prey, especially during mating season (January to March) and when they’re caring for their pups (March to August).

Some tips to prevent conflicts with coyotes include:

• Never feed or attempt to “tame” a coyote.
• Keep trash inside until the morning of trash pick-up whenever possible.
• Do not feed pets outside or store pet food outside. If you must feed outside, make sure the bowl is empty afterwards or remove it.
• Trim shrubbery near the ground to remove hiding cover.
• Close up all openings under porches/decks, crawl spaces or sheds where animals might establish dens.

We clearly share our environment with these canine predators. While they don’t generally pose a threat to us humans, our pets could be at risk, especially cats and smaller dogs. Be alert and we should all be able to live in harmony.

For more information about the presence of coyotes in Fairfax County, and ways to prevent conflicts with them, please visit: