2017-08-24 / Front Page

Coyote concerns voiced by locals to town council

Residents say animals a threat to kids, pets

After a pack of coyotes attacked and killed a 40-pound dog on Wright Lane earlier this month, residents were loud and clear on how they want the town to deal with the problem: Be proactive, not reactive.

“My daughter is 40 pounds and that dog was killed within 50 feet of her sandbox,” Dan Anton said at Monday night’s town council meeting. “That scares the hell out of me.”

Anton, whose Laurel Lane home abuts the Lepre property where the puggle was mauled, was among of handful of townspeople pleading for an aggressive strategy to combat coyotes. Although an ordinance was passed in October that prohibits feeding wild animals, four letters were sent to the councilors this month that say the measure hasn’t curbed the problem. Coyotes continue to get more comfortable around homeowners and their pets, residents said.

“I don’t want my daughter to grow up scared to play outdoors,” wrote Slope Street’s Alexa Gold.

John Flinton, a retired veterinarian who moved to North Main Road in 1980, recalled playing fetch with his dogs. “Now they are on a leash at all times in our own backyard,” he said.

According to Police Chief Ed Mello, the department has collected anecdotal evidence, but scientific data is lacking. Using reports from homeowners and his officers, he said there are certain pockets around town where coyotes roam, including a male on North Road, another near Potter’s Cove and a pack at the transfer station. Moreover, dead livestock was found on Watson Farm in the spring and Beavertail residents are reporting the growing frequency of howls.

“They’re becoming more comfortable in densely populated areas because people continue to feed and socialize with them,” Mello said.

However, he warned, not every attack is the victim of a coyote. When pets have a bite from an unknown origin, the vet is required to complete a report for Mello’s department. Cats and smaller dogs, Mello said, would not realistically survive coyote attacks.

“It’s unlikely that a coyote would allow a small dog to get away and go home,” he said.

Mello pointed to skunks, raccoons and other dogs as usual suspects. “There’s a lot of interaction that happens between animals and other animals,” he said.

Mello, however, did confirm the Wright Lane puggle was attacked by coyotes. Moreover, he witnessed a male coyote stalking the streets in his Cedar Hill Drive neighborhood. Although he didn’t recommend the action, Mello said shooting coyotes is legal with a valid Rhode Island hunting license.

“Our shooting ordinance does not stop this,” he said. “This is legal hunting.”

Trapping coyotes also is permitted, although the animal cannot be relocated because of diseases that could be spread.

“If you trap it, it cannot leave that property alive,” Mello said.

Along with equipping officers in town with the proper training and arsenal to kill menacing coyotes, Mello said his department is becoming more ardent about collecting roadkill, which can attract the animal.

Although Mello is taking proactive steps, he did say education could be helpful. He recommended the town work with Dr. Numi Mitchell, a Jamestown biologist who operates the Coyote Smarts organization.

Councilman Blake Dickinson, however, advocated for a more immediate solution.

“The first thing a wild animal wants to do when it sees a human is get as far away as possible,” he said. “Coyotes do not behave like wild animals.”

Dickinson indicated hunting coyotes would be the most effective way to stop them.

“While I’m interested in hearing from the doctor, I want to find a solution,” he said.

Dan Sumner, of Wright Lane, agreed. When his neighbor’s pet was attacked by coyotes, he said, the pack stood strong even as Stephen Lepre was holding a bat and blowing an air horn.

“This is something that the councilors need to address,” he said. “And they need to address it now.”

Lepre’s letter to the council corroborated Sumner’s story. Reliving the “traumatic experience,” as Lepre went to pick up Scout, his 3-year-old puggle, he wrote, “the coyotes emerged from the tree line and made advances toward me as I was removing their food source from the area.”

“I have never witnessed this in my 24 years in Jamestown,” he said Monday night.

Council President Kristine Trocki said she was concerned about the line between private property owners and the role of the town. She did, however, say public safety was her top priority. Trocki reiterated Mello’s statement that hiring trappers and shooting coyotes is legal.

According to Town Administrator Andy Nota, the police department is in the midst of purchasing equipment that will help it deal with coyotes. The police force, he said, has been instructed to kill aggressive coyotes on private property with permission.

“These coyotes are looking really healthy and well fed,” Nota said. “It’s a concern.”

“I wouldn’t let my child out knowing that a coyote is in my neighborhood,” Mello said.

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