(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) A resident of Arlington’s Williamsburg neighborhood has caught a mangy canine on a wildlife camera.
Giles Crimi says he set up the camera to find out what was eating mice in his backyard, and discovered that it was an apparent coyote (or perhaps a fox).
“I’ve had some field mice destroying equipment covers in my shed,” Crimi explained. “I’ve had the problem before and noticed after they had been trapped and I tossed them outside, their bodies went missing pretty quickly.”
“This time I set the mice out and set up my field game camera, which shoots on motion detected,” he continued. “Now I know it is a mangy coyote in the neighborhood that is taking the free meal.”
After numerous accounts of coyotes spotted in the northern half of Arlington, one has been spotted while apparently en route to South Arlington.
Eliana Kee snapped the photos above while heading westbound on Washington Blvd, just before the Fort Myer exit, around 6 p.m. Tuesday night.
“It was just sniffing around, close to a heavily trafficked road and not very hidden as you can see from the pictures, and didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get back to the cover of the undergrowth,” relayed Brian Kee.
The closest thing to a recent coyote spotting in South Arlington happened last fall, when a dead coyote was found on Route 110 near Arlington National Cemetery. It had been struck by a car.
Coyotes are relatively rare in Arlington but experts say they don’t present a danger to humans.
“These animals learn to live next to humans and not mess with humans,” Arlington Natural Resource Manager Alonso Abugattas told ARLnow.com last year. “There have been cases, however, where feral cats and loose dogs, coyotes will occasionally eat a smaller dog, both as a competitor and as prey. Cats are considered prey as well. That’s the only way that they might affect the public.”
According to Animal Welfare League of Arlington Chief Animal Control Officer Alice Burton, the coyote was struck at about 9:30 a.m. on Route 110 near Arlington National Cemetery.
The responding animal control officer — who works for AWLA, the county’s provider of animal control services — removed the coyote from the scene and brought it back to AWLA, where it had to be euthanized, Burton said.
Arlington’s only previous confirmed sighting of a coyote was in April 2012, courtesy of a wildlife camera set up in Potomac Overlook Regional Park. Other sightings reported by residents have either been foxes or dogs mistaken for coyotes, Burton said.
Despite the cemetery’s location in the heart of the county, Burton said it didn’t strike her as shocking that that’s where the animal was found.
“Right by the cemetery you have pretty quick access to D.C., and I know Rock Creek Parkway has had problems with coyotes,” she told ARLnow.com. “I believe they’ve had more confirmations [of coyotes] in D.C. than we have.”
Arlington’s Natural Resource Manager Alonso Abugattas confirmed that the animal found was a coyote. The female was about 27 pounds — the average adult weighs about 30 pounds — but had young teeth, a bushy tails and many other indicators Abugattas used to confirm the species.
“It’s very small for a coyote but is much too big to be a fox,” he said. “It’s very slender, has no microchips or tattoos to indicate it’s a pet.”
Abugattas said although coyotes are rare in Arlington, the second one spotted in two years is no cause for alarm; the animals don’t present a danger to humans.
“The reality is, I don’t think they’re going to be any kind of issue,” he said. “These animals learn to live next to humans and not mess with humans. I don’t believe they would cause any kinds of issues to the public. There have been cases, however, where feral cats and loose dogs, coyotes will occasionally eat a smaller dog, both as a competitor and as prey. Cats are considered prey as well. That’s the only way that they might affect the public.”
File photo via Wikipedia
A wild animal, believed by some to be a coyote, is causing increasing concern among Cherrydale residents.
The concern stems from Cherrydale resident Jay Stapf’s sighting of what he says were three decapitated fox heads on his back lawn this May. When Stapf went to retrieve his puppy, Stella, from the backyard, he was greeted by the sight of the severed heads.
“It was creepy, almost like when you bury someone in sand at the beach,” Stapf wrote in a report of the incident.
For the second time that month, Stapf called the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, who showed up to assist.
AWLA determined that a human didn’t sever the fox heads. They also suggested that Stapf install a motion sensor camera in his backyard in order to get further clues about the incident. However, Stapf says AWLA never followed up to confirm that a coyote was involved.
“We don’t know for certain [what they were] because they never came out and trapped them,” said Stapf.
AWLA Chief of Animal Control Alice Burton said that most of the time when people report coyote sightings to her, they turn out to be foxes, but this was a case that had her puzzled.
“It’s funny because I’ve reached out to professional naturalists on this and no one has a clue,” said Burton.
“Usually when we find decapitated animals, it’s kind of unusual. Heads are actually the first thing that animals eat,” said Alonso Abugattas, The Department of Parks and Recreations’s natural resources manager and one of the people Burton consulted with.
Sheila Dougherty, who walks Stella, had another neighbor who also reported a coyote sighting, so she decided to check with other residents on the Cherrydale email listserv.
“I think it’s good for everyone to know that there are coyotes in Arlington so that they can make informed decisions about whether to leave their dogs and cats out at night,” Dougherty said.
Eleven other members in the community wrote in with evidence of coyote sightings, with three others seeing a coyote as recently as this past spring.
Some of the sightings were indirect like Stapf’s. One neighbor reported seeing half a bunny in her backyard and the other indirectly reported a pet cat found dead through violent means.
To date, there has only been one recorded coyote sighting in Arlington. The video, recorded at the Potomac Overlook in March of 2012, can be found here.
“They’re extremely elusive,” said Potomac Overlook park manager Roy Geiger explaining why there haven’t been more sightings. “To have a sighting means you as an individual need to be at the right place at the right time to see the individual and identify it.”
Many of the residents in Cherrydale were fairly certain that they have seen coyotes.
“I’ve seen a coyote several times in front of our house,” wrote in Maywood resident Gabriela Gergely. “Having lived in Colorado where coyotes are abundant, both my husband and I are certain that it was a coyote.”
Robert Beckman said that he was sure he saw a coyote due to his experience camping and raising his sons as Eagle Scouts.
Geiger and others suggest that the larger question is whether the coyote poses a great danger.
“A feral cat, or a dog that’s off-leash, maybe so, but to a human definitely not,” said Geiger. “Coyotes are opportunistic. They’re going to look for food, obviously if there seems to be evidence of a small family group or pack, that seems to be more of a concern, but if there is a roving individual, that’s not that big of a deal.”
“There are very few cases where a coyote has bitten someone,” Gulf Branch Nature Center naturalist Jennifer Soles said. “Those are almost always cases where the coyotes were fed first.”
For that reason, Soles said it is best to avoid being friendly with coyotes. One should instead yell at it to go away.
Dougherty reported that Stella had earlier been grabbing the decapitated heads with her mouth and flinging them across the yard. Stapf had the dog tested for rabies, and while the results were negative, Stella got sick from a parasite.
Stapf also called animal control when he first spotted the foxes’ mother climbing under his neighbor’s shed and birthing them a couple weeks prior to the decapitation, and his request was denied. Burton stated that it was against state law to relocate animals from their found habitat.
“They were very helpful and quick to react and help us when we called and reported the incident,” Stapf said, “but it was just unfortunate that they did not remove the foxes when I had asked because had they done so, many of those fox cubs would have been alive today and my dog wouldn’t have gotten sick.”
Gergely concurred, “At the time, I called animal control and they were pretty nonplussed. They said they have received many calls reporting coyotes and thanks for sharing.”
No coyote reports have surfaced in recent weeks but Beckman surmises that the summer heat will bring more of them into contact with local residents.
Coyote Spottings in Arlington? — Some residents in the Leeway Overlee area of Arlington have recently reported spotting a coyote in their neighborhood. While video has proven the presence of coyotes — or at least one coyote — in Arlington, naturalists question whether the animal spotted might actually be a fox or a mangy dog. [NBC Washington]
GOP AG Debate at GMU Law Tonight — The George Mason University School of Law in Arlington will host a debate between the two Republican candidates for Virginia Attorney General tonight. The event, which is open to the public, will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be moderated by former attorney general and governor Jim Gilmore. [Republican National Lawyers Association]
Arlington ‘Avoiding D.C.’s Traffic Nightmare’ — Arlington County has managed to avoid the “traffic nightmare” that’s facing nearby D.C. thanks to a “multifaceted effort to curb car-dependence” that serves as “a regional model,” according to WAMU. [WAMU]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Area wildlife experts are warning area homeowners to keep their pets inside at night after a couple of recent coyote attacks — including an attack at Daniels Run Park in the City of Fairfax on Monday.
Arlington is no stranger to the predatory canines, which have easily adapted to surburban and urban environments across the country. After years of reports of sightings, county naturalists in April confirmed their existence with video from Potomac Overlook Regional Park.
But naturalists are discounting the threat from a coyote-like animal that some residents have caught on camera around the Rosslyn area.
Last week reader Katherine Doty emailed us with a photo of the canine (above), which shows it with a bird in its mouth near the Iwo Jima memorial. Another reader sent in the photos below of what appear to be the same animal around 9:00 a.m. today (Friday) on Route 50 near Rosslyn.
“Some other pedestrians and I think it was a coyote,” the tipster wrote.
The animal, however, is very likely a dog (or a fox) and not a coyote, according to county naturalist Christina Yacobi.
“That is not a coyote,” Yacobi said last week after taking a look at Doty’s photo. “That’s a really long tail for a coyote and coyotes have tails that are really bushy. They looked like they are dipped in ink. And they don’t have that long, pointy snout and those big, giant ears.”
Yacobi said it reminded her of a dog resembling an Ibizan hound or Pharaoh hound that went missing four years ago from a family traveling at Dulles Airport. Yacobi volunteered in the search effort.
Naturalists also say that spotting a coyote out in a populated area in the middle of the day is quite unlikely.
“Coyotes are very good at avoiding people, so residents shouldn’t be overly concerned,” Long Branch Nature Center naturalist Cliff Fairweather said in April. “The key is for residents not to feed them or encourage them not to be afraid of people. The longer they are afraid of people, the better it will be for coyotes and people.”
For a comparison, another shot from this morning near Route 50 and a file photo of a coyote (via Wikipedia) can be found below.
Now that we know for sure that there are coyotes living in Arlington, we’re starting to hear more reports of possible coyote sightings.
One resident sent along this tip and photo (above, left) after spotting what might have been a coyote in an Arlington park.
I was walking my dog yesterday morning (Sunday, 7:15AM) in Lubber Run and saw this by the bridge, at first I thought it was a fox, then realized it was too big to be a fox. Perhaps a coyote, it was definitely not a domestic dog. The tail was very long and bushy. It stood by the bridge for about a minute staring at me and my dog.
Photo (left) courtesy David Hartogs. Photo (right) via Wikipedia.