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North Suburban News

Massachusetts Sees Increase in Coyote Population

Jan 21, 2019 09:54PM ● By Katie Lovett

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Scroll through a community Facebook page and there are a few favorite topics you’ll see repeatedly. One such favorite – the presence of coyotes in the neighborhood.

It’s common for residents to post when they see a coyote, or even post an image of the animal strolling through their yard. The onslaught of attention has raised the question – are there more coyotes now than there were in years past or is the ongoing online conversations just making it seem that way?

Dave Wattles, the Black Bear and Furbearer Project Leader for the Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife in Westborough, said the coyote population actually reached its maximum level in the state during the past decade.

“[Coyotes] have filled all the available habitat in Massachusetts and are at the level they are going to be,” he said on Friday.

With residents easily able to share a sighting, it feeds the notion that there has been a spike, Wattles agreed.

“Social media certainly exacerbates it,” he said.

As coyotes have now made their home in heavily developed communities, Wattles added, they have gotten adjusted to being around humans, traffic, cars and noise. Since they are no longer afraid,  they are being seen more and are not running away. Coyotes are living in every city and town in the state, including downtown Boston, Wattles added.

“They are comfortable around people,” he said.

So, what should one do if they come across a coyote’s path?

Make a lot of noise, Wattles said.

Coyotes are dominant animals. When humans retreat from them, they are learning that they can do whatever they want in that space and believe they are the dominant creature.

Blow air horns, spray your water hose at them,  yell or make noise, Wattles urged.

“That teaches the coyote that it’s not welcome here,” he said. The more they are treated like that, it will reinstate their natural fear of humans that has subsidized as it’s become accustomed to living in these communities.

Another important step to take, Wattles said, is to remove what drew coyotes to the residential areas in the first place – food sources.

"There’s so much food in our neighborhoods,” he said. “More exist in developed areas  as humans provide so much food around our homes, neighborhoods and towns.”

A coyote walks down a street or through a backyard because it has found food there – uncovered garbage, food left out for pets, fruit trees, compost, even bird feeders, Wattles said. If those sources are removed, the number of coyote sightings will decrease.

While coyotes don’t generally seek to attack humans, small animals will fall to its prey, so residents should keep cats indoors and keep dogs leashed and supervised when outside.

Contrary to popular belief, coyotes can be active at any time, so if you see a coyote walking through your yard during the day, that doesn’t mean it’s rabid, Wattles said. Coyotes do travel in packs of about four or five – a dominant male and female and their offspring.

Stoneham Animal Control Officer Brian Johnston said residents are also seeing more of the animals currently as it’s breeding season. It also depends on where in town you live, he added, as known coyote dens are in the north end of town around North Street and in the eastern part of town around Spring Street.

Johnston said he brings an air horn when he takes his two dogs on walks.

“Stand up to them and they will back down,” he agreed. “Start yelling. Make noise.”

 

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

MassWildlife share the following facts about coyotes:

Coyotes are typically shy and elusive, but they can frequently be seen individually, in pairs, or in small groups where food is commonly found. They remain active year-round and do not hibernate. 

Coyotes communicate by vocalizing, scent marking, and through a variety of body displays. It is common to hear them howling and yipping at night, or even during the day in response to sirens and other loud noises.

Coyotes do not howl to announce a kill; this would attract other wild animals.

Coyotes howl because they are telling non-family members to stay out of their territory; they are locating family members; advertising for a mate during breeding season. Pups practice howling and can be especially vocal in late summer as they attempt to mimic their parents.

Coyotes will feed on whatever is most readily available and easiest to obtain. Their omnivorous diet consists of a variety of foods including rodents, rabbits, deer, birds, insects, reptiles, fruits, and berries. They will scavenge roadkills, rodents, and birds killed by cats, as well as garbage and pet food left outdoors.

·        Information provided by MassWildlife (mass.gov/masswildlife)

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