Police: Coyote at home in urban Lawrenceville

LAWRENCEVILLE -- An extroverted coyote has apparently taken a liking to downtown Lawrenceville the last several weeks.

Police around the city have noted the elusive -- albeit unabashed -- canine trotting across roadways and yards in the vicinity of the county's legal headquarters, the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

A marking on the coyote's back, right hip has led police to believe it's the same animal spotted numerous times the last three weeks, said Lawrenceville police spokesman Capt. Greg Vaughn. It doesn't appear to be a danger to humans, or to have exhibited signs of rabies, he said.

Rabid animals typically die within a week of exhibiting symptoms, experts say.

"It hasn't been aggressive toward anybody," Vaughn said.

Police have logged no formal reports about the animal. That's strange, considering the area's hardly crawling with coyotes, Vaughn said.

"I've never heard of them around here," he said.

Denise Griffin, an attorney on Culver Street, described the coyote as "kind of mangy looking and scrawny." She spotted the animal in her parking lot last week, before it darted toward GJAC, as if late for a hearing.

"It didn't threaten me," Griffin said in an e-mail. "I don't think it even saw me."

Coyotes are more common to urban areas than one might think. They actually thrive in close proximity to dense human populations, said Alex Coley, a biologist with Georgia Wildlife Resources Division.

"We have coyotes everywhere ... some are more visible than others," Coley said. "They do well in urban areas because there's an abundance of prey items."

All coyotes belong to the same species -- Canis latrans -- and should be treated as potentially dangerous animals, Coley said. He warned residents not to keep food items -- and especially pet food -- outside over night, as coyotes could equate private property like backyards to viable food sources.

"They are wild animals and should be treated with respect," he said.

As for the likelihood the animal has roamed the area for three weeks while infected with rabies? That's just not likely.

"Once they begin showing symptoms, they die within a matter of days," Coley said.