Coyote sightings

Harker Heights resident Debra Hart recently caught a coyote on camera in her backyard within the Country Trails neighborhood in Harker Heights.

HARKER HEIGHTS — Multiple residents reported coyote sightings on the neighborhood community website Nextdoor.com earlier last week.

According to information from the Texas Park and Wildlife department, coyote sightings are on the rise across America and found in all 48 continental states.

Because of growing communities, the wild animals are also firmly established in many residential areas including some neighborhoods in Harker Heights.

While coyote sightings aren’t completely out of the ordinary, locations like Antelope Trail in the Country Trails neighborhood is unusual.

“Every once in a while, they roam in the neighborhood area,” said Jerry Bark, public relations officer for the city of Harker Heights. “Normally, it Is closer to the lake area, where there is a lot of oak land,” Bark said. “They normally don’t venture into the Market Heights area or anything like that.”

While some residents see the slender, dog-like carnivores as icons of American culture, others are worried about the recent sightings.

Although coyotes do prey upon small mammals including house pets, they have an opportunistic diet and shouldn’t take the blame for every missing cat or kitten.

Primarily, coyotes hunt small animals such as mice, rats and rabbits, and eat fruit and berries. They also scavenge for human and pet food left outdoors.

Debra Hart, a resident of the Country Trails neighborhood, caught a glimpse on a rather large coyote in her backyard and was even able to record a short video of the animal.

“I couldn’t believe they got that big,” she said.

Hart contacted the Harker Heights Pet Adoption Center, but was told that animal control officers don’t have the necessary equipment to trap large animals. She was told to contact the game warden if the coyote becomes aggressive.

According to Bark, the Pet Adoption Center usually contacts the Texas Park and Wildlife office in Temple to handle similar situations.

They can relocate the animal to another location, he said.

Bark recommended residents to still contact the Pet Adoption Center at 254-953-5472 in order to find a quick solution.

“Ask for the adoption manager and she will take care of it,” he said. “She is pretty good at it.”

Angel Boucher, who lives off Indian Trail in Harker Heights, has also caught footage of coyotes on her home security system covering her backyard.

She said the coyote in her backyard appeared to be smaller in size and age.

“I would say it’s a baby or teenager coyote,” she said. “The one here honestly seems more frightened than aggressive. When a stray cat appeared one night, it took off.”

While the coyote is a regular visitor at night, she has never seen it during the day and therefore never contacted any animal control services.

“It doesn’t seem aggressive, so I’m not trying to bother mother nature,” she said. “Unless it becomes aggressive … I don’t plan to change anything. I tell my neighbors I see it, just so they can keep their animals in at night. Otherwise, it’s part of nature so let it be.”

While residents should certainly be on alert outdoors, the risks of a coyote encounter is minimal.

Simple safety measures to minimize the risk include avoiding placing garbage bags out at night and not allowing pets to run loose.

Coyotes are opportunistic predators and will eat what is available. Keeping bird feeders and pet food containers inside at night, as well as other things coyotes might eat, shows the wild animals that humans are not a source of food.

Feeding coyotes can invite them deeper into populated areas.

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