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If you hear howling outside your house late at night, don't be afraid. It's just a coyote, and this is a time of year when they call to others, according to wildlife biologist Bob Noviello, owner of Suburban Wildlife Control in Windham. His company deals with animals that are a nuisance to humans, including coyotes.
Noviello, a former wildlife biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said he often receives calls in the spring when mother coyotes are seen hunting for food to feed their young. He also gets them this time of the year when the growing offspring become vocal.
"You get a lot in the fall when the juveniles get big enough and start talking to each other," he said. "You get to hear them howling at night."
Local coyote experts said people shouldn't be too concerned if they hear one howling. Coyotes rarely attack people and are usually not rabid, though they are known to sometimes go after dogs, cats and other small mammals. They also are drawn to livestock.
"You always get these types of calls, but the occurrence of that is very low," Noviello said. "They call up concerned they are going to be attacked because they hear them at night."
Coyotes are drawn to yards where squirrels eat at bird feeders, Noviello said. Relocating bird feeders helps solve the problem, he added.
Despite more calls this time of year, there is no evidence the coyote population is increasing. As a matter of fact, the number of coyotes in the state, which isn't tracked, seems to have been stable in recent years, according to wildlife biologist Mark Ellingwood of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
"I'm not aware of any change in the status of coyotes in the state," he said. "Coyotes are very tough to keep tabs on."
Ellingwood did say there are not as many in this part of the state.
"Generally speaking, our higher numbers are in central and northern New Hampshire," he said. "The numbers appear to be less in Southern New Hampshire."
Coyotes are an adaptable species, he said. As more property is developed across the state and the country, coyotes are forced to deal with a changing environment and less room to roam.
Coyotes have been known to thrive on the outskirts of large cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles as more of their natural habitat is developed, Ellingwood said.
Danville Animal Control Officer Sheila Johannesen said she occasionally receives a call from someone who has seen or heard a coyote. Only two weeks ago, there was a resident who saw one on Sandown Road and wanted to shoot the animal, she said.
Johannesen said when she hears from people whose cats have suddenly disappeared, coyotes and fisher cats are usually believed to be the cause.
"We have to assume that something got them," she said.
Jesse Fraser of Critter Control, a Merrimack company that traps and removes small animals throughout Southern New Hampshire, said he receives a lot of calls about foxes, but not many for coyotes. But he has occasionally been asked to deal with a coyote den to evict its occupants.
Scents from other animals are used to encourage the coyotes to relocate, Fraser said.
"We kind of make them want to leave and feel not too safe," he said.
Across the state, hunting and trapping are used to keep coyotes in check.
"We don't want them comfortable in our community as we don't want black bears comfortable in our backyards," Ellingwood said.
People worried about coyotes on their property are often referred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are then directed to a trapper who can help them, according to Carrie Stengel, the service's district supervisor.
They must be licensed with the state, except for those trapping on their own farmland; take a trapper education course; and receive written permission from the landowner.
There are 400 to 450 trappers across New Hampshire, and each is vital in dealing with the many reported cases of nuisance animals, including coyotes and beavers, Ellingwood said.
"It's a very valued resource in dealing with the issues in the state, particularly in Southern New Hampshire," he said.
Coyotes can be hunted in the state year-round, with night hunting permitted from January through March. Although the state does not track the number of coyotes taken through hunting, it does record the number trapped, Ellingwood said.
There were 396 trapped in the last year compared with 517 and 378 in the two preceding years, he said.
Credits: By Doug Ireland - EagleTribune.com