Though coyote attacks around New England are rare, coyotes are not.
Experts say Eastern coyotes roam through every community in Massachusetts except the islands. And in recent days, the creatures seem to be dominating local news. Two people in North Attleborough were bitten by a rabid coyote on Monday. In Newton last Saturday, a coyote trotted off with a house cat clamped in its jaws, much to the horror of neighbors.
Experts are asking the public to be vigilant about coyotes exhibiting unusual behavior. State officials warn residents to call local authorities if they see a coyote, or any other animal, behaving in ways that seem odd or dangerous.
In general, however, wildlife experts recommend warding off, or “hazing,” a coyote if one is seen lurking around a neighborhood.
“Go out of the house, throw things like small stones or a ball at it,” said David Wattles, MassWildlife bear and furbearing biologist. “Chase it off property, make loud, harsh noises so that it’s not just hanging around.”
To keep coyotes from sniffing around, residents should remove all food sources.
“Coyotes in suburban areas take advantage of the food people provide around their house,” Wattles said. “That can be unsecured garbage kept outside rather than in a garage, compost, or food people feed to pets or other wildlife and birdfeeders.”
Coyotes aren’t picky about their diets. Wattles said you might find nothing but apples or berries in their scat. But they’re opportunistic. If a domestic cat crosses its path, that pet could be prey. Wattles recommends keeping small dogs on leashes and not leaving pets outside by themselves.
“That’s a coyote being a coyote,” Wattles said of the predation of pets. “While unfortunate that it takes the pets, it is considered normal coyote behavior.”
Wattles said MassWildlife has received about 100 calls this year, often from people who’ve spotted a coyote near their home and aren’t sure what to do about it. The state’s environmental police average 200 calls every year about coyotes. The animals are accustomed to living among people despite the cars, sirens, and others noises that come with an urban environment.
Despite the recent attacks in North Attleborough, such instances are very rare. These were only the eighth and ninth documented attacks on people by coyotes since the 1950s, according to a release from MassWildlife. The most recent coyote attack on a person was in 2015.
Mating season is during the first few months of the year and pups leave the den in late fall to go off on their own, said John Maguranis, an animal control officer in Belmont and the Massachusetts representative for a national nonprofit called Project Coyote, which promotes coexistence between people and wildlife.
Online, Belmont has a map that can track how many coyotes there are in the area.
Maguranis said coyotes are generally afraid of people and make a point to avoid them. You just don’t want them associating you or your home with food.
‘Coyotes in suburban areas take advantage of the food people provide around their house.’
“Don’t ever feed coyotes or any wildlife,” he said. “That’s what gets them in trouble and us in trouble. Take real simple precautions. They’re not grizzly bears, they’re not purposely trying to kill a family’s pets. They’re just trying to survive.”Cristela Guerra can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.