Are there coyotes hidden amongst the trees of Lafayette Hill?
Local residents seem to think so, and the director of the Montgomery County SPCA say that recent sightings in the area make it entirely possible.
Patch got onto the trail after a local man recently paid a visit to the Whitemarsh Police station to report that he believed he saw three or four of them close to his home near Spring Mill and Hunter Roads. The man told police he often sees the animals near dawn, and believes they may have even set up shop in a wooded area of the nearby Green Valley Country Club (GVCC).
What's more troubling, the man told police that he saw one of the animals circle and attack a domesticated cat last spring.
While staff at the GVCC say they haven't received any reports or seen any evidence of coyotes, Carmen Ronio, executive director of the Montgomery County SPCA, can personally attest to their presence in the county.
"I have seen one right near Wings Field, along Township Line Road [in Blue Bell]," Ronio told Patch. "I live along the Wissahickon Watershed and also saw two there this past summer."
Ronio says he can easily identify the coyotes due to his experience in working with animals and dogs. These aren't the first sightings in Montgomery County, either. A 2004 Philadelphia Inquirer piece detailed the animal's migration from the American Southwest, spurred by the removal of traditional predators such as wolves over the past 200 years.
They arrived in the Pocono Mountains by 1960, and a 49-pound specimen was reportedly trapped along the Blue Route in Plymouth Meeting and dubbed "Mr. 476," the article said. Numerous other sightings or trappings have been reported throughout the region, including "yips, barks, and howls" at the Pennypack Preserve.
Patch put a call out to readers via our Facebook page, and several other residents said they think they've seen the animals, along with foxes.
"I had one in the back of my parents house when I was putting my daughter in the car. It stopped and was staring at me. Also saw it at another point chasing a deer across our front yard," said one reader.
"I heard there was one in Erdenheim Farm," said another, a sighting that, if true, would be about two miles from the GVCC.
While not traditionally a danger to humans, Ronio says residents should be vigilant of their pets and small children if there are confirmed sightings of coyotes.
"Especially with small dogs or cats, people absolutely need to keep an eye on them," said Ronio. "If there are two or three in a pack they can be dangerous."
Ronio says that anyone who believes they see a coyote should call their local police department. Whitemarsh Police chief Michael Beaty says that his department hasn't received any other reports of coyotes, but agrees that residents should call if they see the animals.
"What we do get once in a while are reports of packs of stray dogs, especially when we were more rural near the Erdenheim Farm," Beaty said. "But if anybody sees anything, we welcome them to call us."
Eastern coyotes are typically described as being between 30-50 pounds and 48-60 inches in length, with long legs, thick fur, a pointy snout and a bushy, black-tipped tail. They are typically quieter than their western counterparts, and will stay in a particular area until food sources dry up, and then move on.
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