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from The Newton TAB Newton MA


Coyotes on the prowl

By Andrew Lightman / Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Reports of a coyote nearing a group of young children in Newton and a girl being "nicked" by a coyote in Wellesley have residents concerned of a growing animal presence in the Garden City.

Police and animal control officers said at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 18, a hungry coyote snatched a small stuffed bear from a back yard in Waban, just a few feet from where several small children were playing on a swing set.

According to police, a panicked mother told officers that the coyote growled at the children and followed them at a distance as they ran into the house.

Although no one was injured, that incident, along with numerous other coyote sightings, have prompted police to warn residents about the problem.

"Right away, everybody is worried about rabies and it's very serious," said Newton Animal Control Officer Lucile Riddle. "But it could just be curiosity."

Police have received reports of rabid-looking coyotes on the prowl in the city. One was seen on Beacon Street near Hammond Pond Parkway on Friday. Another scared a man and his daughter several days earlier.

"We had one behaving oddly," said Riddle. "It followed two people walking their dog. It got too close for their liking."

Riddle said that encounter took place near Quinobequin Road, close to Route 9. She believes that coyote is the same one that was later shot in Wellesley for fear it was rabid. However, that coyote tested negatively for rabies last week.

"Who knows what was going through its mind?" Riddle said. "With wildlife, we're not dealing with cut-and-dry."

Newton Police Sgt. Kenneth Dangelo said residents should expect to see more wildlife as open space is developed. He said as people encroach on their habitats, coyotes tend to become more friendly around people and are more comfortable moving around in their presence.

Coyotes are the size of a medium-sized dog, weighing 30 to 60 pounds, but usually with longer, thicker fur. An Eastern coyote, the most common in Massachusetts, can be active either day or night. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Bureau recorded 3,348 complaints about coyotes nationwide. One year later, the number had soared to 5,223.

Coyotes are territorial and opportunistic feeders. Their primary food sources include rodents, rabbits, birds and snakes as well as fruits, vegetables and berries. They will hunt moles and mice that feed on birdseed that spills from feeders.

Riddle said coyotes will also prowl yards if left untended, and are known to make dens under sheds and wooden decks.

Though she said daytime encounters are highly unusual, Riddle said residents should not be alarmed to see coyotes from time to time.

"It's not abnormal to see a coyote in the daytime," she said. "If they are hungry, if they didn't have a good hunting the night before, they will come out."

Riddle said if one is spotted behaving normally and acting with purpose - such as looking for food - there is no need to call animal control.

But if one spots a coyote behaving oddly, in a drunk or disoriented manner, it could be a telltale sign the coyote is sick. But Riddle said rabies is not the only thing that could be wrong. Coyotes also suffer from distemper, poisoning from lawn chemicals and food poisoning.

Most healthy coyotes will shy away from human contact. If one approaches, the best advice is to hold your ground, stomp your feet and make loud noise, according to Riddle.

"You want the animal to know that you are at the top of the food chain," she said. CNC Staff Writer Melissa Beecher contributed to this report.

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