That bushy-tailed dog hanging around your property might not be a stray. He just might be a coyote, hunting for rabbits and mice.
"We do have coyotes in Carroll County," David R. Stair, an animal control officer with the Carroll County Humane Society, said at a breakfast yesterday for agricultural and business leaders.
"The first documented case was in Hampstead in 1985, when one was caught by a trapper."
Eastern coyotes, which are migrating into Maryland from Pennsylvania, weigh 30 to 45 pounds for a female and more than 50 pounds for a male, he said. They resemble large dogs, but have ears that are more pointed and lean forward, a pointed snout and a bushy fox-like tail.
"A coyote is an animal very different from the domesticated dog," Mr. Stair said. "He knows how to survive and has adapted to urban areas."
Coyotes have been seen in New York state, covering two-square-mile areas hunting mice and other rodents. Western coyotes tend to have a 100-square-mile home range, he said.
"Their food source determines their range," he said.
Carroll County coyotes tend to dine on mice, rabbits, groundhogs and domestic cats, Mr. Stair said.
"If a farmer comes to us and says he had 60 barn cats and is now down to three, chances are what he's been seeing is a coyote," he said.
Only one farm animal, a goat in Mayberry, has been killed in Carroll County, Mr. Stair said. Animal control officers determined it was a coyote kill because the goat's throat had been attacked and held until it suffocated, he said.
"If a coyote in the area is attacking livestock, it will have to be removed," Mr. Stair said. "If Mr. Coyote wants to get into your pasture, he will get in."
Electric fences, blinking lights and other nuisances may deter the coyote if other prey is easier to obtain, he said.
However, coyotes are territorial and ward off other predators, such as dogs, foxes and other coyotes, Mr. Stair said.
Coyotes tend to mate for life, and the pups remain with the family for about two years before leaving to find their own hunting territories, he said.
Mr. Stair also said reports of coyotes attacking people, particularly children, have been exaggerated. Two cases of coyote families surrounding hunters have been documented in New Hampshire. However, in each case, the hunter was using a predator-calling device that sounds like a squealing rabbit.
"The coyote came and jumped in his [the hunter's] lap," Mr. Stair said. "A coyote has no reason to attack humans."