2017-10-19 / News

Town continues to address coyote issue

BY TIM RIEL


This coyote in the backyard of a Narragansett Avenue home in the West Ferry neighborhood last winter wasn’t scared of humans. This coyote in the backyard of a Narragansett Avenue home in the West Ferry neighborhood last winter wasn’t scared of humans. The town continues to beef up its crusade against coyotes, working with biologists to keep them out of neighborhoods while arming police officers to deal with those that don’t.

The town historically has taken a tepid approach to coyotes, but has since ramped up efforts after a pack of wild canines mauled a 40-pound domesticated dog on Wright Lane.

Following the August attack, residents pleaded for a solution, which led to a four-pronged action plan by Police Chief Ed Mello. This plan includes an awareness campaign against feeding wildlife, equipping coyotes with tracking collars, trapping habituated coyotes and training officers to shoot aggressive animals.

Mello gave the councilors an update at Monday night’s council meeting, along with a report from Dr. Numi Mitchell, a Jamestown biologist who manages the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study. Signs have been posted throughout town and a public service announcement is underway. Also, a personal letter from Mello was sent to farmers that offers his department’s assistance with disposing of livestock carcasses during the winter.

“We’re just advising them of the concerns we have,” Mello said. “We are reminding them of what they can do to help minimize the food source.”

Mitchell is expected to start collaring coyotes before November. These tracking devices will identify food sources, Mello said.

While none currently are being electronically monitored, the team has baited coyotes in the Wright Lane area while cameras were rolling. So far, however, only one coyote has been filmed in the two-week period.

“That doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” he said. “They move in packs to different areas.”

According to Mello, the police station hasn’t received any calls about coyote sightings in that timeframe. However, residents might decide not to call if they aren’t in danger, he said. Councilman Blake Dickinson corroborated that theory.

“I saw two in my yard last week and didn’t report it,” he said.

Instead of reporting them, Dickinson hinted that he will shoot the animals if they return. “I’ll handle it,” he said.

Hunting coyotes with permission on private property is allowed year-round with no bag limit.

Turning to police training, Mello said every officer on the force will be equipped to combat coyotes within next two weeks. If an animal is dangerous, the department will deploy an officer “more skilled with a firearm” to deal with the situation.

“This is to mitigate one or two coyotes, not the entire population,” he said.

For trapping, the town’s insurer has relayed its concerns about the liability with private contractors that can only use box traps.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, however, can secure permits for more effective traps, including footholds. Although it’s not a free service, Mello is drafting a proposal for the federal agency. Following Mello’s presentation, Dickinson asked to be on record saying that he had “fundamental issues” with Mitchell’s report. The report indicates hunting coyotes is a temporary fix, but Dickinson said that statement “presupposes we stop pursing them.”

“There are some inconsistencies,” he said.

If put to a vote, townspeople would disagree that residents have to co-exist with coyotes, he predicted.

Return to top