Residents Reminded not to Feed or Approach Wildlife

July 25, 2014

Prince William County – Recently a resident reported to the Prince William Health District that the resident saw a coyote in the Buckhall area of Prince William County. Coyotes can be found throughout the state, in both urban and suburban areas, including subdivisions. They can also carry rabies, although this is rare. Although primarily nocturnal, or active at night, coyotes often venture out during daylight hours for readily available food sources or to make a den in a readily accessible area such as under porches/decks, crawl spaces or out-buildings.

Coyotes typically weigh between 30 and 45 pounds and have long, thick fur that is often blond/reddish-brown or tan/grayish-black with a small white spot on the center of the chest. They have long, bushy, black-tipped tails; pointed ears; and a long slender snout. When running, coyotes carry their tail below the level of their backs.

Coyotes are opportunistic and territorial, and will prey on unattended small dogs and cats. However, because coyotes are known to have an instinctive fear of people, human attacks are very rare. Still, a rabid coyote, or any domestic or wild animal that contracts rabies, may attack humans or pets without warning.

The Prince William Health District recommends the following tips:

  • Animals look for places to den and raise their young. To prevent this, close and seal all openings under and into buildings.
  • Keep brushy areas in your yard cut back to prevent cover for coyotes.
  • Do not feed coyotes or any other wildlife. If anyone in the neighborhood is feeding wildlife, it can cause trouble for everybody. Feeding wildlife will cause coyotes and other wildlife to lose their natural fear of humans. Follow these tips to limit unintentional food sources:
    • Keep trash inside until the morning of trash pickup or place trash in an animal-proof container, such as a metal or plastic trash can with a tight-fitting lid.
    • Do not leave pet food outside; keep pet feeding areas clean.
    • Remove bird feeders when nuisance species have been seen around them, such as rats, rodents, squirrels and others.
    • Clear fallen fruit around trees, which could attract insects, rodents and other wildlife, which, in turn, can attract predators, such as coyotes.
    • Keep small pets inside as much as possible. When they go outside, put them on a leash or install coyote-proof fencing to protect unsupervised pets. Small pets may be viewed by a coyote as prey. Larger dogs are viewed as a threat – particularly from January to June while mating and birthing pups.

If you observe a coyote or any other wildlife or pets in your community exhibiting signs of rabies, such as stumbling, foaming at the mouth or showing aggression, contact the Prince William County Animal Control Division at 703-792-6500.

If the above listed techniques do not keep coyotes away, contact a “critter control” service company for further assistance or contact the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ toll-free wildlife conflict helpline at 1-855-571-9003. The Prince William County Animal Control Bureau does not routinely respond to nuisance wildlife issues unless there is a concern about a rabid animal. For further information and resources, visit:

For more information on rabies, visit the Virginia Department of Health website at You may also follow the Prince William Health District on Twitter @PrinceWilliamHD or on Facebook at for more health information.