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I was wondering if anyone living in the mountains have had run ins with coyotes where you felt your life was in danger. I have, and it was suggested to me that I wear a bell when walking the land and carry bear mace or a pelllet gun. Now I've learned that since coyotes mate with wolves and feral dogs and have become more aggressive that they can be the size of a healthy german sheperd and pellets will bounce off them and mace just makes them mad. Hate to think I can't take a late afternoon stroll without a gun on my hip, but I came across at least two coyotes with a fresh kill and had no weapon on me but my camera! The vocal warnings they were giving me was no joke. I'm an animal lover as much as anyone, but don't want to be "dog meat" either... anyone have first hand experience, ideas, etc. Thanks.

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Well, I have to tell you if the mace doesn't work, carry a gun. A warning shot may be all you need. I have never been threatened by a wolf or a coyote. I have seen both around here. I think because it is so big and thinly populated where I live, that we don't have feral dogs mating with the rest. All the cattle ranchers around here shoot coyotes and wolves if they are killing their livestock, especially during calving, so the problem doesn't persist. Loose dogs are not permitted either, as they are a threat to wildlife. This is not against the law here. And the animals are still relatively afraid of humans and would rather avoid them. We have bears and mountain lions as well, but again, they would rather avoid an encounter. But in your situation, I'd be packing a gun with some serious ammo in case you have to shoot. You don't want to injure the animal, that really, really makes them mad. If you have shoot to protect yourself, quick and humanely is the way to go. I carry bear mace all the time and I always have my dogs with me..... Good luck!
Rita is right. If you live in the boonies and mix with wild animals... they don't know that you love them. They see you as either a threat or food. :-)

We have a variety of critters in our area. From bears and mountain lions to coyotes, moose and wolves. 99.9% of the time you are in no danger, but that one time when you surprise a mama with her cubs, or a critter with their kill... you become a problem.

Rita's right about the gun... odds are if you needed to use it you would be too shook-up to do any damage with it, but squeezing off a shot or two creates a BIG noise that can break the tension and scare the animal away. Unless you're facing a grizzly, the noise is all you need most times.

When I go off in the woods or walk my pooch after dark, I carry a tiny 5-shot .22 caliber pistol that isn't much larger than a BIC lighter. It has a 1" barrel and sounds like a cannon when you fire it.

Get a gun and leave that pellet gun at home :-)
Get yourself a gun. A 22 will be suffice. Learn to shoot.
You came across them when they had food. You were a threat
to their well being in their eyes. If they didn't have food, you would have
seen them but they would have left you alone. You might have to shoot
for noise, but you never know when you will have to shoot for life.
I once got flogged by a turkey and still have the scars to prove it.
I never thought a turkey could do so much damage, but after that encounter
a gun goes to the mountains with me every time.

Hi Marsha,

I can relate to your experiance with your run in with coyotes. Last year I was walking my dog like I do every night and in the meadow to the side of me was what I thought was a dog. As I got closer I knew it wasn't a dog it was a coyote. It was as big as a german sheperd dog. I tried to scare him to go away but, he wasn't afraid at all. Finally I knew I had to get my dog away and myself. The coyote then starting to run up the hill and I walked very, very, very, fast back home. I am still timid when walking my dog. I carry pepper spray with me now but I think I need to carry a little gun.

I still walk my dog every day but still a little scared!

Marsha: No matter where a person decides to live (or build their log home) there are always "dangers" present. Personally, I would rather live in the "boonies" (and I do too) than face the daily dangers of big city or urban areas. All I hear about on the local tv and radio stations is crime related and people being injured or killed. Thank goodness you can still carry a gun with you when you are out for a stroll, let's hope THAT doesn't change anytime soon. The only wildlife encountering experiences I have strolling around my property is deer, turkey, squirrles and occasionally the neighborhood dogs. Keep both the camera AND the gun handy on your walks (don't forget the bell too). I hope you shoot more with your camera than the gun. Post some of the photos on your forum and share with the rest of us the beautiful creatures you encounter on your walks. I'm also looking forward to hearing from others about how to keep the coyotes away in case I happen to run in to one in the wild! Cheers - Donald

That bell means dinner time for our local wildlife.

Down here in the spring the male aligators travel all over looking for a mate. You always look out the window before opening the front door as you never know what is going to be there.

How about a 7 foot python in your garage. The need to check your bike for black widows before you get on. I think an angry grizzly is probably more dangerous though.

Joe, Sarasota
Thanks everyone! I inherited a revolver and a rifle from my Dad, but haven't shot a gun in years. Guess I'll get these looked over and take a course before we move to Tennessee at the first of August. Check out my profile on this site for some pictures of our property and home as it is being built. Anyone else have thoughts on this? Thanks again!
Remember the naming of the chickens conversation? Don't see us becoming huntin' buddies, my brother, but I had plans to get the guns checked out and take a course as an owner anyway. Thanks for reminding me though... guess there's more I need to be doing than packing boxes, huh?
Robert, Good afternoon. I'm responding to your comments to Marsha because you mentioned 'a safety course'. My husband and I own property outside the Bryson City NC area and if all goes well will start building within the next 8 - 10 months. This discussion peaked my interest as we were just discussing the issue of purchasing firearms for the specific purpose of scaring off, if needed, wildlife. Being nature lovers, I can only hope this is all we'll ever need it for. Owning a firearm is something that will be totally new to both of us. The closest we've come to owning one is his paintball gun. Can you make suggestions as to what kind of firearm/s might be best suited for our needs and what's the best way to locate a safety course. Thanks so much.
Well said... Watching the hair go up on Abra's lower back and neck will alert me too, no doubt. I've never felt calmer in my life than on those front porches. Be there in a few weeks, my brother.
Here's this though, folks... I think the first thing I plan to do is educate myself on the part of the country where I'll be living. Even though I grew up in a small unincorporated town surrounded by country and farmland, that isn't the same as living in the mountains. When I went walking I didn't think of telling anyone which direction I was walking (first mistake), and I didn't have a police whistle to alert folks of my whereabouts if I had fallen or something (second mistake), didn't take a staff for walking security on uneven ground or to protect myself (third mistake) and most of all... thought I was walking in a Park/Country byway instead of in a unused mountain path. Upon thinking of this a little more, my goal is to remember that being the "new kid on the block" in that area means I need to learn what the wildlife does to keep itself healthy and not give it any problems. Building the log home in a beautiful, natural setting and then being scared of that nature (rather than educated about it), seems counterproductive.

I've also done a little research (with a friend's help and SUNY (State University of New York) at Cornell ) and found the following that I found interesting concerning hybrid coyotes: Early reports of “coyotes” in the east were often greeted with skepticism. Sometimes, after seeing the animals’ large size and hearing their howling, people declared them to be wolves. To further confuse the issue, some animals were identified as “coydogs,” a mix of coyotes and dogs.

Early studies, which used skull measurements to identify species, suggested that most of these animals were mostly coyote. These studies also showed that some interbreeding with wolves may have occurred. Recent studies using DNA analyses clearly show that hybridization with wolves has occurred, most probably in southern Canada where populations of wolves and coyotes adjoin each other. Hybridization has similarly occurred between coyotes and red wolves in our southern states, but has not been reported for coyotes and the larger subspecies of gray wolves in the northwestern states, northern Canada or Alaska. The degree of hybridization varies among individual coyotes in New York and adjacent New England states.

Although specimens of coy dogs were identified during the early years of coyote colonization, recent DNA analyses show no evidence of dog genetic material persisting in our coyote population.

Maybe we should start by being more awake and aware, educating ourselves on our regions, and be smart but not scared that the natural world is out to get us right off the doorstep.


Well written ...

As you see from the letter directly preceding yours, many folks leaving their well ordered cities and suburban landscape have a skewed idea of what living in the woods is all about. Unlike entering the Everglades in Florida or swimming in the Gulf of Mexico one doesn't necessarily enter the foodchain upon coming to live in the eastern forest.

I can't speak for the western part of the country (except for Alaska where I lived for 2 winters half a lifetime ago - & there were dangers implicit to living there) but I can speak for the eastern woodlands. I have lived in or next door to the eastern forest for most of my 60 plus years.

I was raised in the woods by a father who lived to go hunting and fishing whenever he could. I had no choice but to learn how to live with the realities of being in the woods from the time I could follow my old man down a hunting trail.

As you say this is not a county park - but it's not the forest primeval either. White people have lived here for 400 years or more. Indigenous people have lived here for at least 20,000 years and probably more. There are state highways and county roads within a half mile, and the land is dotted with well-worked hayfields and cow pastures.

Coyotes and the less than likely coydogs pose no real danger - feral dogs while slightly more dangerous will usually (unless they're rabid which is a whole 'nother question) run away rather than confront most human beings.

While the possibility of black bears is real in this part of the country. The north slope of Clinch Mountain is not the Smokies, the Blue Ridge, Cherokee National Forest or the Appalachian Trail where bear attacks do happen. Bear depradations are rare though not unheard of here and can be for the most part averted by using good sense - eg keeping trash in sealed containers etc.

One of the ways to avert danger from mostly imaginary animal attacks is - as you suggest -learning where you live - and paying attention to the rhythms of life around you.

Buying guns and taking safety courses - while understandable - does not solve the anticipated but unlikely problems.

If bears come to people's homes to check out what's good to eat and to raid their pantries - it's usually at night and even more likely when the owners are gone - often when the seasonal cabins are closed for the season. A gun isn't going to do any good at all if you're not able to use it when the bears come calling because you're asleep or if you're not home.

A gun in the hands of untrained city folks newly come to the country is much more dangerous than the likelihood of attack from coyotes, legendary coydogs, lions and tigers and bears oh my - is. No gun in most cases is safer than a gun rendered useless or dangerous by inexperience.

There are venomous snakes here - they are dangerous; but snakes like bears and coyotes really don't want to have anything to do with humans. Given the chance rattlesnakes and copperheads will disappear long before we see them - cottonmouths which are rare in this part of Tennessee are agressive and best avoided.

It seems to me that if you respect the land and respect the animals who live here this place becomes much less dangerous than most American cities and suburbs. We don't need to 'scare them (the animals) off' - we need to learn to live where we are without turning these places where we are privileged to build the homes we always thought we wanted to build into more vinyl-clad American suburbs.

Leave the pistol in the closet.

Get a whistle and a stick for when you go walking and - oh yeah - don't be afraid of the boogy bears and the were coyotes.

It's not about us against the critters. It's about the fact that we all live here and need to respect each other's privacy. Like Rodney King said, "Can't we all just get along?"



ps - again your last letter was well reasoned and well written.


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