Visitors of a national park in Mississippi are on high alert after reports of an “aggressive” coyote in the area.
The Vicksburg National Military Park is urging all hikers, bikers and runners to avoid the park’s south loop until officials take “immediate action to resolve this issue,” according to a Facebook post.
The park did not say if the animal has tried to attack anyone.
"ATTENTION ALL BIKERS, RUNNERS, AND WALKERS, an aggressive coyote has been located within Vicksburg National Military...
Coyotes are native to North America and are among the “nuisance animals” that can pose a danger to Mississippi residents and their pets, according to the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP). Officials say potential conflicts with the wild canines range from “mere irritating circumstances to significant property damage.”
Experts say coyote attacks on humans are rare, and that reported attacks are usually “defense-related.”
“A coyote may attack if it feels threatened or is protecting a den with pups,” said Dr. Marina D’Abreau Denny, an assistant professor in the School of Human Sciences at Mississippi State University. “Additionally, more coyote attacks are reported from January through April, which is coyote breeding season.”
Coyotes resemble medium-size dogs, ranging in size from 32 to 37 inches long and weighing up to 50 pounds, according to National Geographic. Their tails can grow up to 16 inches long.
So how should you respond if you come across one? Most importantly, don’t run.
“Running away with your back turned can evoke a predatory response to chase,” Ricky Flynt, a wildlife coordinator for the MDWFP, told McClatchy News. “Instead, shout loudly and make your presence known. If the coyote doesn’t walk away, then continue to shout and possibly throw items like sticks or rocks toward [it].”
Coyotes are especially protective during breeding season, Flynt said, and may kill or attack small animals that come near denning areas with their young.
All coyote sightings and activity should be reported to Vicksburg National Military Park officials at 601-738-2999.