The same week John Campbell of Burlington County was attacked and bitten by a rabid fox, residents of the county have voiced their concerns on social media regarding a separate incident and are now on the lookout for coyotes. This additional fear has been prompted by multiple unofficial coyote sightings and an attack on a family pet in Shamong.
“We have received neither calls nor complaints about recent sightings or attacks by coyote in Shamong, according to our database of calls to the DEP hotline,” Caryn Shinske, public information officer at the state Department of Environmental Protection, said. “That, however, does not mean that such an incident didn’t occur — it simply means that DEP was not notified/contacted about any such incident.”
At the last township committee meeting, Douglas Melegari spoke during public comment about a coyote attack on a resident’s dog while the resident was hiking along a trail in town.
“Someone did say just in conversation that possibly the coyotes had a den there and that’s why they attacked the dog,” said Sue Onorato, Shamong township administrator. “It’s very rare for them to attack a dog, especially with an adult there.”
In the case of an attack, Onorato suggests residents call 9–1–1 for assistance if immediate medical attention is required, and, if not, they should report these instances to the State Police or local police division.
According to the state DEP, the first coyote was spotted in New Jersey in 1939, and although they are not native to the East Coast, their numbers have steadily risen over the years as the native timber wolf population has been killed off.
“The coyote is a highly adaptable animal capable of surviving in close proximity to humans, often without being seen by the general populace,” Shinske said. “For instance, we’ve only had one reported sighting in a place like Maurice River over the past 20 years, but 73 mortalities reported at the same time.”
Typically known to avoid humans, the thickly forested Pine Barrens is an ideal home for these canines. However, coyote sightings are uncommon because these animals are most active at night.
“These times of the year, coyotes are more likely to be seen during the day because they are busy foraging. I don’t think people in Shamong are at more risk than any other place else in the state,” said Andrew Burnett, a wildlife biologist with the state Division of Fish and Wildlife who oversees the state’s coyote efforts. “Generally, people like wildlife unless it’s in their own backyard and then they get somewhat nervous. In this case, though, if the dog was on a leash, it might not have even happened.”
If coming in contact with a coyote, it is recommended that residents make themselves seem as big and loud as possible, and that they do not run or turn their back on the animal. Making noise by banging on pans and pants or by using a horn or whistle is also suggested.
The intent should always be to scare away and not injure the coyotes, but in doing so, residents may want to throw small stones, sticks or tennis balls in the direction of the animal. Spraying them with a hose or squirt gun, if obtainable, can also help to deter them.