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April 10, 2013

Coyotes roam state, including Lawrence County

NEW CASTLE — Coyotes can be found in every corner of Pennsylvania and in every township of Lawrence County.

Usually, they pose no threat to residents or livestock, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

However, Trudy McEwen, who has seen them from her Union Township home, fears cats and small dogs could end up on the menu of these opportunistic feeders if residents are not vigilant.

The Linden Street resident said she has seen coyotes in her neighborhood for the past year and a half.

McEwen cares for six cats — three inside, three outside — and a small dog. Through the winter months, her outside cats live in three shelters on her deck.

“During the cold months of this winter, I noticed that the three cat houses had been disturbed.”

McEwen said she began watching closer and saw a coyote in her yard and footprints in the snow.

“Tom Wherry, the animal control warden, confirmed that they are in the area, but said it is rare to see them.

“He advised that I keep the backyard lights on to discourage them, which I did. I didn’t see another one until today,” she said Tuesday morning.

Outside with her 7-pound Pomeranian, “Bear,” McEwen said she saw the coyote trotting down the middle of the road.

“It was a muted brown, thin with a sharp face and bushy tail. They look like a dog, yet they don’t,” she said of the animal. “They have a different gait. It was well kept and not at all mangy.”

She said she hollered at it, “But it was not fazed and not the least bit afraid of me.”

McEwen said she has learned that coyotes are aggressive and will go after and kill dogs and will eat cats.

“I told my husband if Bear goes out, one of us must be with her. We live in a wooded area which is lovely, but is apparently the habitat for coyotes. I don’t think that they would hesitate to carry her off. I just hope they don’t bother my cats. The outside cats are old and one is pretty chubby.”

McEwen said she has warned neighbors. None have reported missing pets, but she noted most of her neighbors keep their dogs and cats inside most of the time.

Lt. Mike Mrozek of the Union Township police department confirmed coyotes have been seen in the township.

“Almost every officer who works a midnight shift has seen them at dawn near the New Castle airport.”

He said he is not aware anyone is having problems with them.

“Years ago, as I was driving from Wilmington Township, I would see one at least once a week running with a chicken in its mouth,” he said. “But no one has had problems like that here.”

Ron Richman of the Pennsylvania Game Commission confirmed coyotes exist in every township of Lawrence County and have for some time.

“You’ll see a large predator population in areas when you have a large population of deer or turkeys,” he said.

Byron Gibbs, a wildlife conservation officer with the state game commission, confirmed that “Pennsylvania is saturated with eastern coyotes, even in Allegheny County and within the city limits of Pittsburgh.

“It’s not uncommon to find them ... in and around urban areas.”

Gibbs said he has hunted coyotes, “and I got most of them within Pittsburgh city limits.”

He said even Manhattan has a coyote population.

“They can be found all over the United States.

“People might not be seeing them, but hunters have reported a steady increase in numbers over the past 20 years.”

Gibbs said he has no estimate of the coyote population in Pennsylvania, but noted hunters and trappers had harvested more than 32,000 of them in 2011, the most recent year figures are available.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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