This coyote now stands guard at Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. Photo: David Sites

Why is There a Coyote at Thomas Point Light?

Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse is a popular piece of scenery for Bay boaters to cruise past (and photograph). Anyone who gets close to the lighthouse in the new year may find something unexpected. No, a dog has not taken up residence at Thomas Point. It’s a life-sized, rather realistic looking coyote decoy. And the lighthouse manager says it’s working.

Like many structures that sit out in the middle of the water, Thomas Point is a prime target for bird poop. The guano has been a problem for years. Manager John Potvin says the lighthouse is equipped with a bird squawker system of multiple speakers to keep birds off the roof. But, Potvin tells us, “The birds seem to have gotten used to them and their use as a deterrent has diminished.”

And the sound system certainly wasn’t doing much for the dock on the lighthouse where tours land—which gets so poop-covered that it needs a washdown every time tourists arrive.

Photographer David Sites and the coyote decoy at Thomas Point Light. Photo: James Ronayne, F/V Porkchop

The idea of scaring birds away with a coyote decoy is credited to David Sites, a photographer who chooses Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse as his most frequent subject, in any lighting, weather or season.

As Sites explained to us, “Drew Payne, a charter captain and owner of the Big Worm charter boat, moves his boat down to Virginia when the weather gets cold here to extend his fishing season. When he docked his boat at a marina, he noticed a coyote decoy on the dock. When he questioned them about it, the marina told him that they had a bird problem and after putting the coyote out there they have had no more problems.”

Sites told Potvin about the coyote solution and Potvin figured it was worth a try and ordered one. For those wondering, coyote decoys are available in the $50-$75 range multiple places online, including Amazon.

The installation of the coyote on the lighthouse platform was novel enough that a group assembled for the trip. Along with Potvin and Sites, boating photographers Wil Keyworth, Dianne Sullivan and James Ronayne of F/V Porkchop journeyed out to show the coyote his new home.

Hopes are high that the coyote will do the trick as a bird deterrent. So far, Sites reports he hasn’t seen one bird on the dock and no new droppings. Potvin says the decoy “seems to be working well for the gulls and cormorants”.

He has also ordered a new bird squawker system for the upper levels of the lighthouse, with different sounds than the previous to keep the gulls guessing. He says they’ll continue to monitor these systems and hope that they keep the mess under control.