Sandy Springs resident David Doll wonders how far he should go toward protecting his family from coyotes he sees in his backyard.

Sandy Springs resident David Doll wonders how far he should go toward protecting his family from coyotes he sees in his backyard.

David Doll is worried about what coyotes routinely gathering near his yard might do to one of his pets or worse, his 4-year-old daughter. But he says his options for dealing with the problem aren’t good.

“Do I live among them or decide to take action and protect my family? I don’t know what to do,” Doll said.

The Sandy Springs resident recently moved to the Jett Road area on a 3-acre lot with a large tract of land behind his fence. He says he routinely sees a multitude of coyotes gathering near his land.

Residents across the metro area have reported repeated sightings of coyotes in recent years. Sandy Springs residents have held public meetings to discuss what to do about the animals, and homeowners in Buckhead also have reported visits from coyotes.

Doll called 911 about the problem, and was told he could not legally discharge a firearm on his property at the animals. He called animal control and was told to call a professional trapper. He called the Department of Natural Resources and learned their resources were stretched so thin they couldn’t provide much assistance.

“If an animal makes it onto my property I don’t see why I can’t discharge a weapon,” he said.

But killing the wild animals isn’t really what he wants. Doll said he called several trappers and learned they would charge $1,200 to come to his home and set humane rubber traps. However, the trappers are not permitted to set the animals back free in the wild once caught, due to the risk of rabies. Instead, they have to euthanize them.

Don McGowan, a biologist with the Georgia DNR, said that how a resident deals with coyotes depends on the situation. He said if sightings are infrequent, to leave the animals alone.

But if sightings are becoming frequent, homeowners should first take some measures to make sure they are not attracting them, such as not leaving pet food, dirty barbecue utensils and small pets outside.

McGowan said that coyotes are not a protected species, so homeowners can use weapons against them if local firearms ordinances allow it. Hiring a trapper is another option, and the DNR maintains a registry of licensed professionals.

“Coyotes are pretty intelligent,” McGowan said, advising that if a homeowner wants to hire a trapper to find an experienced one.

McGowan said the number of calls concerning coyotes has not increased during the last five to 10 years. “It was about 10 to 15 years ago that we started picking up sightings.”

The subject of coyotes also came up at the High Point Civic Association’s annual meeting on March 25. That group of Sandy Springs neighborhoods opted to have the animals trapped after sightings of coyotes as close as neighborhood mailboxes. Some six to eight were caught in the last two to four months.

Doll remains torn about what to do, with one option being to “learn to live with them. I’m lucky to have a fence, but lots of my neighbors have open lots,” he said, with children and pets often playing outside.

He said it’s the coyotes’ behavior that concerns him, not the fact that they are merely there. “They are aggressive in terms of sitting near my property,” he said, adding that the animals appear unfazed when his dogs bark at them. Doll said he’s learned that one of the reasons for this behavior is that it’s mating season and the males are likely feeling intimidated by other animals.

“None of us want to kill these animals,” Doll said. “But, how much of a threat do I want this to become?”