AR-News: (MA) Warning: Protect your cats
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Thu Oct 9 12:19:25 EDT 2003
Coyotes will not change their behavior patterns on their own. "We will have
to do it for them," said Health Department Director Donna Moultrup at a seminar
last Wednesday evening. "We've caused this problem and we will have to solve
The coyote population in Belmont has grown dramatically in a very short time,
according to town officials and some of the approximately 60 residents who
attended the presentation and slide show held at the high school last week.
Animal Control Officer John Maguranis said the first coyote sighting in town
was in September 1998.
"This year, we've had calls that people are seeing them all over," he said.
"Just this year, the coyotes found their niche in Belmont."
As of last week, said Maguranis, a total of 14 cats had fallen victim to
coyotes this year - 12 of them in the past 10 weeks.
This Monday, the 15th cat of the year - and the first woodchuck - were found
in the Grove Street park, "definitely coyote kill," Maguranis said this week.
Humans have contributed to the coyotes' growth, and humans can play a large
role in controlling the population, said wildlife biologist Chrissie Henner
from the state's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, who gave a presentation at
Henner explained that coyotes did not appear in Massachusetts until the 1950s
and, when they came to the western part of the state, they quickly expanded.
"This eastern coyote is a sub-species of the western coyote and researchers
are not in agreement about its lineage," she said. "We believe they are a
mixture of the dog species we had here."
Prior to the appearance of the eastern coyotes, there were wolves in this
area but they are not as adaptive as coyotes, said Henner.
Coyotes are hardy creatures. Some of the virulent viruses which attack other
fur-bearing species have not affected coyotes, she said.
"This type of coyote has a variable home range area which is based solely on
food," Henner said. "They will eat anything and look for the easy meal -
preferring to eat what humans leave behind rather than expending the energy to kill
That's why the coyote does so well in suburban and urban areas, Henner
explained: "They are highly adaptive and not that picky about the dens they use."
So it's not uncommon to find a coyote making its den in a cemetery, a park,
under a porch or near a brush pile in a suburban yard.
That's where residents can help, Henner said. It is imperative that compost
piles be covered and brush areas be cleaned up because the coyotes can use them
as cover. Most importantly, Henner said, no one should feed a coyote directly
or indirectly, which is why dumpsters must be closed and trash cans should
only be put out on garbage collection days and should be tightly secured.
"You shouldn't feed your own animals outside because coyotes will be
attracted to the smell, and the area around bird feeders should be kept clean," she
said. "It's best to have the feeders which do not allow seed to spill over
because the animals that wait for the seeds are prey for the coyote which will sit
and wait for them to appear."
The eastern coyote mates in the spring and raises pups between July and
August. Ordinarily, Henner said, the size of their litter is approximately four to
"But if the coyote senses there is more food, it is instinctive for them to
breed more pups," she said.
The coyote is usually shy and elusive, Henner said. That is why coyotes must
be reminded that they should fear humans.
It is not difficult to scare off a coyote just by staring it down or making
noise, Maguranis said. But he warned that residents should never use such
behavior with a dog who appears violent because the dog will consider it a
challenge and may attack.
A resident in the audience said she never sees coyotes but knows they are in
the area of her home, despite the fact that no one in the neighborhood leaves
food out and all garbage is secured.
Henner said the best thing to do, even if one does not actually see a coyote,
is to make a lot of noise.
But residents pointed out the town has noise bylaws which must be followed.
In that case, Moultrup said, the best tool to use is a garden hose.
Some residents indicated they would like to see the coyotes killed or
"Traps were banned here in 1997 so we cannot catch the coyotes to use a
contraception program - which is quite expensive - or research exactly how many we
have," Henner explained. "And there are bans on discharging firearms so we
have limited ourselves with laws."
Tolerance is key, she said, adding that she believes the coyote problem in
Belmont can be controlled if people are vigilant about following rules and
alerting their neighbors to do the same.
"We must keep the coyote wild and wary," she said. "We are their only
predator so we must appear hostile to them."
For additional information or to report a problem with coyotes, call the
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife at 508-263-4347 or e-mail
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