2015-08-20 / Nature

Forensic Tracking of Coyotes

In 2011, Middletown became the first Aquidneck Island community to adopt a wildlife nofeeding ordinance in response to residents’ concerns about the growing presence of coyotes. Four years later, Middletown is also the first in the area to make use of forensic tracking data to identify food sources that may be attracting coyotes.

Forensic tracking is a term coined by Dr. Numi Mitchell of the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study (NBCS) to describe the use of high-tech GPS collars to plot the movements of coyotes.

One particular neighborhood north of the Sachuest Wildlife Refuge appeared to be a major hotspot, so the first coyote was trapped and collared in that area. The tracking data showed that coyotes were finding food at a local farm with pigs. Unprotected feed was attracting coyotes, which had to cross through residential neighborhoods to get to it. This food source created a hub of coyote activity. The farmer was unaware of the problems and agreed to feed his pigs in a way that does not attract coyotes and has come up with a plan for changes.

The tracking also turned up another food source very popular with coyotes: a community composting operation. Its managers were notified about the problem and have agreed to address it by burying food scraps under at least two feet of loam and by monitoring the site for further signs of coyote excavation.

In Newport, regular coyote traffic at the Fort Adams and Kings Beach boat ramps was discovered. The old habit of cleaning fish at the ramp and leaving the remains in the shallows was teaching coyotes to stop in search of the evening meal.

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