2014-09-25 / Opinion

Living Responsibly with Coyotes

To the Editor:

Bill Falcone’s letter last week about Newport’s coyote problem reminded me of a letter written by Roger Williams in the mid-1600s to the town of Providence, currently on view in the new Charter Room at the Rhode Island State House. In it, Williams complained that some area roads were unsafe to travel thanks to the ongoing presence of wolves, and he wondered why no action had been taken to address the vexing problem.

Flash forward three and a half centuries. While wolves have long since vanished from the New England landscape, a new top predator– the coyote–has moved in to take their place. Unlike wolves, coyotes pose no great threat to people or large livestock. That’s the good news. They are very adaptable animals that are able to thrive in close proximity to humans, who can’t seem to resist feeding them. That’s the bad news.

Fall is a time of heightened coyote activity as last year’s pups start leaving the family pack. At this time–or any time, for that matter– small or elderly dogs and cats should not be left unattended, especially after dark. Nor should pet food or other edible attractants be left outside where coyotes can get at them. The feeding of coyotes and other wildlife–intentional or not–is not only dangerous but also illegal under state law and the no-feeding ordinances adopted by communities such as Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth.

Coyotes have become a fact of life in urban as well as rural areas and can be found in all parts of our state except Block Island. Learning to live safely with them is a challenge that faces every community. To find out more about the problem and what we can do to address it, I invite you to visit our website at coyotesmarts.org. (Spoiler alert: Shooting them all isn’t the answer, as Middletown Police Chief Tony Pesare will be only too happy to tell you.)

Living with coyotes is a bit like living with a chronic condition that can be managed but not cured. And if we want to manage coyote behavior, we must start by managing our own.

Jo Yellis
Executive Director, Coyote Smarts

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