The informational meeting was conducted by Pat Huckery, the northeast district manager for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and was nearly identical to the meeting given last year at this time.
Pat presented the life history of the coyote as well as a number of methods for lessening human encounters with coyotes, most notably to cut off their food supply. Humans providing food to the coyotes directly and indirectly is the number one reason the coyote population has exploded on Cape Ann, and at the top of the list states Pat is bird feeders. She recommends that if you do have a bird feeder, at the very least, clean up the mess left daily underneath the feeders. Spilled bird food attracts rodents and small mammals, which in turn attracts coyotes.
Unsecured garbage as well as pet food left outdoors are also strong coyote attractants.
From my own observation its easy to see why Cape Ann’s coyote population is mushrooming. Our shoreline, marshes, and wooded habitats provide a wealth of food, both hunted and scavenged. I am curious to know if our readers see dead fish and birds washed ashore any longer. In the past I have seen quite a bit more on daily walks and think today the coyotes are providing a service by eating the carcasses.
At the meeting it was suggested that coyotes eat rats. That information seems surprising as rats are highly intelligent and not easily hunted. Additionally, if coyotes are doing such a terrific job eating small mammals and rodents, then why do we have an exploding population of rabbits, chipmunks, and mice? Regrettably conjecture is often presented as fact and unfortunately there is no hard data available. We learned at the meeting that tagging and tracking coyotes is not allowed in Massachusetts under the same provision that does not allow for poisoning and trapping with snares.
Hunting as an approved option for reducing the coyote population was discussed. Local licensed hunter Sam Holmes was in attendance and he can be reached at 978-491-8746. Communities such as Middleton, Rhode Island, have an expanded hunting season to manage the population of specifically coyotes that have lost their fear of humans.
Pat’s Top Recommendations for Lessening Contact with Coyotes
- Put away bird feeders, or clean up daily beneath the feeder.
- Supervise pets outdoors at all times.
- Secure garbage in tight fitting bins and put out the morning of trash collection
- Seal up any areas of your home and outbuilding’s foundation that might provide a coyote with a place to hide.
- Secure chickens.
- Compost in bins.
- Under no circumstances, feed coyotes.
Note to the folks who are feeding the coyotes: By feeding the coyote, you are habituating it to people. You may thing you are helping the coyote but you may potentially hasten its demise. Habituated coyotes are considered a serious threat.
If you do come face to face with a coyote, be be big, bold, and brave. Waving and flailing your arms will make you look bigger and scarier, and yelling will startle them.
Coyotes typically do not want to interact with people. Each of the three times I have come face to face with a coyote it was because I was unwittingly between it and potential food. The big, bold, and brave technique is effective although during my most recent coyote encounter, I thought the coyote had departed. He had however instead stealthily circled around to the dead fish on the beach he so determinedly wanted to eat.