How to protect your pets from wildlife in NC

A coyote growls after being caught in a trap in Mount Holly Saturday, January 19, 2013. TODD SUMLIN -tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

A coyote growls after being caught in a trap in Mount Holly Saturday, January 19, 2013. TODD SUMLIN -tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

North Carolina is home to particular species of wildlife that could harm your pets without warning or with proper precautions taken.

Coyotes, foxes, raccoons and snakes are some of the most common predators in the Charlotte area during fall, said NC Wildlife Resources Commission biologist Falyn Owens.

Wild animals sometimes attack pets to defend themselves, but pets can also become their prey, Owens said.

“Especially for very, very small pets that are left outside on their own with no human supervision, they can become part of the food web and become prey for predators that are out there and have an easy meal right there ready for them,” she explained.

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A pile of feathers in your yard could mean a predator is nearby. Evan Moore

How often do wild animals attack pets in Charlotte?

In 2021, there were 14 incidents where wild animals attacked domestic pets in Mecklenburg County, Owens said, adding that the majority of those incidents are not reported to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

Half of those incidents involved outdoor cats that were injured or killed by coyotes, Owens said.

“Anything about the size of a rabbit is going to be a potential meal for a coyote,” said Owens. “They are very common in Charlotte and in North Carolina.”

How to protect your pets from wildlife

Here are some ways you can protect your pets from wild animals, according to the NCWRC:

  • Keep your pets inside a fence, leashed or supervised when they are outside.

  • Do not leave pet food outside

  • Do not feed wildlife

  • Close crawl spaces and openings under your house

  • Trim tree limbs to prevent wild animals from getting to your roof or attic

What to do if a wild animal attacks your pet

If a wild animal bites or attacks your pet, the first thing you should do is get the other animal away from your pet, according to Washington state-based Angel Pet Hospital. You can do that by distracting the animal with an object.

Once the animal is away, you can assess your pet’s injuries. If your pet suffered severe injuries, you should wrap them in a towel or blanket and seek immediate medical attention, the hospital advised.

You should also check if your pet is up to date on their rabies vaccination. If your pet’s vaccination has expired, you may have to quarantine them to ensure they did not contract rabies during the attack.

Where in Charlotte to get your pet vaccinated against wildlife-borne infections

All dog, cat and ferret owners must get their pets vaccinated against rabies, according to the Mecklenburg County Animal Control Ordinance.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control Unit offers free rabies clinics for Mecklenburg County residents on the second Saturday of every month at its shelter, 8315 Byrum Dr., from 8-10:45 a.m. Dogs must be leashed and cats must be in carriers , and photo IDs are required to get your pets vaccinated at the clinic.

The Humane Society of Charlotte hosts low-cost vaccine clinics. Appointments can be booked online.

You can also request the rabies vaccine at your pet’s next veterinary appointment.

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Evan Moore is a service journalism reporter for the Charlotte Observer. He grew up in Denver, North Carolina, where he previously worked as a reporter for the Denver Citizen, and is a UNC Charlotte graduate.

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