2017-10-26 / Front Page

Bolder Coyotes Among Us

By Brooke Constance White

It’s been six weeks since coyotes were first spotted near Newport’s Braga Park and, so far, the problem hasn’t been solved. In fact, it’s become worse.

Last week, a coyote chased a 60-pound dog in a yard on Gibbs Avenue. The dog’s owner blasted a foghorn to break up the chase and prevent a dogfight, said Numi Mitchell, president of the Jamestown based Conservation Agency, which has been studying the local coyote phenomenon since 2004.

“It was territorial squabbling in a place where the coyote shouldn’t be having a territory,” Mitchell said. “We need to make these neighborhoods worthless to coyotes so that we can reduce coyote traffic and human or pet and coyote encounters.”

The problem of coyotes becoming too comfortable on Aquidneck Island isn’t new, said Mitchell, who is the lead scientist of the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study. But, she added, if residents could comply with the city’s no feeding ordinance, adopted after a particularly stubborn coyote named Cliff was moved from the island last year, coyotes would leave for good.

“We need to take this seriously,” she said. “Look at how seriously we got about littering when I was a child. It became socially unacceptable and I think feeding coyotes, both actively and passively, should be socially unacceptable.”

In order to help residents understand the problem and potential solutions, the city is hosting a public forum on Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. in the city council chambers. Mitchell will be presenting on the topic and offering her recommendations.

Sgt. Joseph C. Carroll, public affairs officer for the Newport Police, said that the department hasn’t changed its approach in dealing with the coyotes and is still working with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to handle the issue.

“We have not started ticketing and issuing warnings for violations of the no-feeding ordinance, but we are planning to if that becomes an issue,” he said. “There’s an education aspect to this and hopefully the forum will help with that.”

Currently, the affected neighborhoods stretch from America’s Cup Avenue and First Beach to Green End Pond. While scoping out some of the neighborhoods, Mitchell said she found a home by Braga Park that had a backyard that she likened to the Garden of Eden.

Pears and other fruit had fallen from the trees, and was now enticing coyotes. In order to discourage the wild dogs, Mitchell said the community needs to be proactive instead of reactive. Residents need to clean up dropped fruit and secure outdoor garbage cans and compost bins so animals can’t get in.

“These things generate traffic,” Mitchell said, referring to fruit on the ground as well as easily accessible garbage and compost. “The only reason the coyote was defending a neighborhood lawn against the family dog on Gibbs Avenue is because there are food sources and it’s worth defending. [The food source] is likely either a feral cat colony or people throwing chicken bones out or leaving dropped fruit under the trees.”

If residents don’t work to mitigate the issue on their own, Mitchell said the city should be aggressive in enforcing the no-feeding ordinance and should hand out tickets and warnings to people not complying.

“The fact that Cliff was moved and the problem came back to the exact same neighborhoods shows that what needs to change is what the community is doing,” she said. “Once everyone cooperates, this will be no problem.”

TO GO:

Coyote Public Forum

WHEN: Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m.

WHERE: Newport City Council Chambers

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