When you think of NoDa, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? We have art, music, coffee, breweries, restaurants, and retail. I doubt that you thought about animals … especially WILD animals. But I want to share a few stories about everyday life in the 28206 section of NoDa—the other side of the tracks.
Over here, we co-exist with a wide array of wild animals. The most notable creature stalking our side of the tracks is the species Canis latrans, better known as the coyote.
According to an article on MeckNC.Gov, coyotes are native to the Western U.S., but in the past few decades have become more common throughout the state of North Carolina, even in urban areas. The eastward expansion of coyotes is due primarily to human-induced factors, including the elimination of native red wolves (a coyote competitor) and the clearing of eastern forests for agriculture and other uses. Coyotes were first seen in NC in 1938, but in the 1980s and 1990s, coyotes established themselves throughout the state.
My wife Pam and I have had a few random encounters with coyotes in the neighborhood. Almost all occurred at dusk or after dark (coyotes are generally nocturnal). Walking back from the center of NoDa one evening, we saw a coyote emerge from the brush at the other side of Sugar Creek, saunter jauntily across 36th Street and disappear into the creek bank on the other side.
Another time, driving down 36th Street toward Tryon, we saw what appeared to be a stray dog walking slowly at that same corner as earlier, so we waited to see if its owner was coming. On closer inspection, we noted its pointed ears, longer legs, distinctive mottled coloring, and long bushy tail. We had witnessed our second coyote not a block from our house.
Finally, there have been several evenings when we heard the unmistakable yipping and plaintive wailing of a pack of coyotes. While most coyote sightings and vocalization in the neighborhood occur at night, a social media post yesterday reminded us all that coyotes can be active during daylight hours as well.
Neighbor Jeremy Walker posted the following on a neighborhood social media site around 10 am one day: “Think I just saw a coyote scream by my house on Suddreth and turn left onto Benard. It was flying, so I didn’t get a great look.”
Jeremy’s post got me thinking about how many other neighbors had experienced coyote and other animal encounters. In short order, the stories came pouring out:
Jeremy Walker: “Sure, I was sitting at my desk and saw something out of the corner of my eye. By the time I turned to look, it was almost to Benard then bolted left. It fit the size, weight, color, and shape of a coyote and was running full speed. I guess it had come across Tryon. I’ve seen them a few times crossing 36th at Sugar Creek and also saw one at Anderson across the street and a little up from Bold Missy across those tracks. It squeezed under the fence where that industrial building is and took off.”
Jeremy continued: “One of the craziest things I’ve ever heard was camping in Joshua Tree. A pack of them roamed by the campsite before dawn. They weren’t howling but sounded like a coven of cackling witches. Really spooky but beautiful sound.”
Brian Suddreth: “I’ve heard that same thing in my backyard in NoDa.”
Chris Long: “The packs definitely move up and down Sugar Creek. I’ve heard the howls and yelps in my backyard over the past few weeks when they hear sirens. I’ve seen one curious pup watching me cut grass, and another time, I watched a coyote stalking a deer.”
Jennifer Laracy: ”Last Saturday night, a train sounded its lonesome horn. Nearby, coyotes began to yip and howl. The domesticated dogs in the neighborhood answered the primal call and began to howl in unison.”
Ben Levite: “I had some trees in the back of my property on Ritch that had been cut down. The tree cutters came back to remove tree pieces and saw a nest of baby foxes. Animal control came and took the babies away. After everything was cleaned up, I saw the mother fox smelling around where the trees used to be. Very sad‘.
Sean Mullin: “The coyote sightings definitely increased up and down the tracks once [BLR] work began. Dens were disturbed. I’ve seen them cross 36th and at the junction of Ritch and Benard Avenues. As they got more displaced and started touring the hoods, they got bolder and less skittery. One night on the screened porch, I heard a pack yip up and down the tracks, clearly hunting. The energy of the yips picked up as they got closer to the prey … then came to a screeching halt. Then the howling began. There is absolutely a great barred owl or two that live in our ‘hood, late summer into fall. One lives in a tree near the corner of 36th and Ritch and one that migrates along Benard.”
Chris Long: “Oh yeah, Sean, sometimes they’re in my backyard and their screeches and calls are a bit terrifying! But cool at the same time. I’ve been surprised multiple times at night walking out on my back deck, coming face to face with an owl on my railing. Cool and scary.”
Patrick Wadden: “Erin saw a coyote at the intersection of 36th and Tryon about the same time. It seemed to go into the trees around the sheriff’s compound. We also have loads of rabbits, so there’s no shortage of food for coyotes or birds of prey.”
Gustavo Raino: “We’ve had our share of backyard wildlife encounters. I love especially the fellow guarding my grill: a beefy hawk. The hawk looks a bit menacing but not that much when I caught him on video being chased away furiously, by Dad and Mom Crow defending their nest.”
Many of us in the 28206 have animal stories to share, due to our proximity to Sugar Creek and the surrounding thick woods. While we love swapping these stories, there is no animal that fascinates us quite like the coyotes. They remind us that we are newcomers to a landscape that not long ago was the little disturbed habitat of a plethora of wild creatures. We’re visitors in their domain.