WARREN, NJ - Is it the Chupacabra or Jersey Devil? Sightings of a strange looking creature have been reported in Long Hill, Warren, Watchung, and across the state.
The mystery creature or creatures are most likely either foxes or a coyotes with mange. The difference is that foxes have a white-tipped tail whereas coyotes do not.
Sarcoptic mange, a skin disease caused by infection from the bite of a small mite, is one of the leading killers of wild foxes and coyotes in the Garden State, according to the state Division of Fish & Wildlife.
Be aware that coyotes have been seen around the area in the last few days and they appear to be more brazen than those seen earlier this year.
Residents have reported hearing sirens in the night, but it could have been the coyotes.Their midnight yowls bounce off the hills so loudly it sounds like sirens. They howl to each other, sometimes one at a time, sometimes in a pack. The coyotes have been spotted stalking and chasing smaller animals. They don't appear to be afraid of humans and don't run if approached. They walk slowly, deliberately.
The coyote's howl is distinctive.
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife advises:
The coyote is a wild member of the dog family and closely resembles a small German shepherd with the exception of its long snout and bushy, black-tipped tail. Another key difference from a domestic dog is readily noticeable even from a distance. The coyote has a habit of holding its tail below a horizontal position while standing, walking and running.
Coyotes, along with foxes, are sometimes afflicted with mange which can result in significant hair loss. The loss of fur can result in making identification of a coyote difficult, resulting in reports of a "mystery" animal, or even a cougar.
Coyotes play an important role in the ecosystem, helping to keep rodent populations under control. They are by nature wary of humans. However, coyote behavior changes if given access to human food and garbage. They lose caution and fear.
The following guidelines can help reduce the likelihood of conflicts with coyotes:
Never feed a coyote.
Deliberately feeding coyotes puts pets and other residents at risk.
Feeding pet cats and/or feral (wild) cats outdoors can attract coyotes. The coyotes feed on the pet food and also prey upon the cats. Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.
Remove sources of water, especially in dry climates.
Bring pets in at night.
Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting rodents and other coyote prey.
Provide secure enclosures for rabbits, poultry, and other farm animals.
Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.
Although extremely rare, coyotes have been known to attack humans. Parents should monitor their children, even in familiar surroundings, such as backyards. Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
Clear brush and dense weeds from around dwellings - this reduces protective cover for coyotes and makes the area less attractive to rodents and rabbits. Coyotes, as well as other predators, are attracted to areas where rodents are concentrated like woodpiles.
If coyotes are present, make sure they know they're not welcome. Make loud noises, blast a canned air siren, throw rocks, or spray them with a garden hose.
Past interbreeding between wolves and coyotes may be responsible for the larger size and color variations in the eastern coyote.
If you observe coyotes in the daytime that show no fear of humans or if a coyote attacks a person, immediately contact your local police and the Division of Fish and Wildlife at 908-735-8793; outside of normal business hours call the DEP Hotline at 877-WARN-DEP.
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