2006-06-01 / Letters to the Editor

Coyote study funds requested

This letter was sent to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser and copied to the Jamestown Press:

I am writing to ask you to include the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study in the town budget for the upcoming year. We are requesting $9,999 - just under $10,000, the largest amount that can be requested at a town financial meeting. We are asking all Jamestowners to approve this expenditure.

We would have approached you earlier, but we did not originally expect coyote problems to arise this year. This past couple of months, however, The Conservation Agency, who runs the NBCS, has been fielding numbers of calls about coyotes, most recently in the downtown area. One call we responded to involved a coyote that had

been shot on Narragansett Avenue a block from the schools. We think the town needs to be pro-active about co-existing with coyotes. The NBCS is positioned to help. We need your support to do so.

The NBCS has been privately funded through foundation grants and charitable gifts for over a year. We designed the study because we realized that co-existing with coyotes was about to become an issue here, as the deer population has. We saw a need for regionally-relevant scientific data on coyotes that could be used for co-existence and management strategies as coyotes became more numerous. Over a two-year period, scientists at the Conservation Agency developed a completely unique study methodology involving GPS collars that record hourly positions of collared coyotes. While more expensive than conventional radio tracking, we felt it would pay off. Last June, we kicked off the NBCS by setting out to collar 10 coyotes from 10 packs on Jamestown and Aquidneck Island. We met our goal for the year several weeks ago and are continuing onward into next. As we anticipated, our collars are revealing coyote habitat and resource-use information that has never been possible to collect before.

Over this past year, we discovered that much of our data was relevant to human co-existence with coyotes here in Jamestown. The finding most significant to day-to-day existence was the surprising amount of unnatural food resources they are getting here. People are both unintentionally feeding them (e.g., pet food on porches, compost piles, deer shot but not recovered, road kills) and intentionally feeding them (e.g., pet food, scraps) all over the island.

Coyotes are different from deer, which reproduce until they starve or become diseased: coyotes regulate their own population size. If little food is available coyotes have fewer offspring. Conversely, coyotes respond to abundant food by increasing their numbers.

Through continual data collection, we have identified many ways coyotes are subsidized and have started to develop recommendations for decreasing nonnatural food resources. Our goal is to passively maintain coyote populations at a reasonable level by decreasing resource availability. We strongly believe the town should be pro-active and responsible about this in the interest of public welfare and safety but also in the interest of the coyote which is a native species filling an important niche here.

The NBCS will cost more than $200,000 next year. Most of this money will be raised from foundations. We are asking the town to pay for a portion of our costs to deal with Jamestownrelated issues. Over the next year we plan to:

1. Make and help implement recommendations for decreasing specific food resources for coyotes.

2. Continue in our role as a coyote response team for questions, issues, and problems.

3. Continue to conduct research on the coyotes around Narragansett Bay so that we can formulate our recommendations from scientifically rigorous baseline data.

We hope you, the Town Council, and the community will vote YES for NBCS.

Best regards,

Numi Mitchell, lead scientist, Narragansett

Bay Coyote Study

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