WESTERLY — Coyotes have been spotted in town over the past couple days, a likely response to the warming temperatures following the severe storm and deep freeze in early January. Officials are urging residents to be aware because the animals are expected to be present over the weekend.
The warm temperatures have opened up an opportunity for animals such as coyotes to try and collect additional food sources, Westerly Animal Control Officer Art Smith said. Over the past couple days, there have been sightings reported in Watch Hill near the Apple Rehab, including a video shared by Charlestown resident and Westerly native Katie Richardson, as well as in a residential area in Avondale.
“Coyotes are opportunists by nature. This time of year, they will be out 24-7 looking for food if the conditions are ideal,” Smith said. “We haven’t had many reports, but you could see them at any time of day this time of the year.”
When it comes to coyotes, Smith said there has been no evidence of any aggressive encounters lately. In a cold winter, however, he warns that small dogs and other other pets could become targets. The best way to protect your pets is to use common-sense measures, including never leaving the pet unattended and limiting the time they spend outdoors, particularly at night, he said.
Smith said objects such as an electric fence may keep pets close to the home, but will not keep coyotes out. He also recommended securing or eliminating any food sources, even those used for birds and smaller animals, and keeping dogs on a shorter leash during nature walks.
“If you live in any area in town that has a considerable amount of woodland or open space nearby, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is not to let dogs or pets out on their own,” Smith said. “Use a leash and stay with them. It will go a long way towards keeping them safe.”
According to the DEM's website, coyotes are “opportunistic predators and scavengers” that consume a wide variety of foods that include small mammals, deer, carrion, birds, insects, fruits, berries and garbage. The state Department of Environmental Management advises using loud noises such as whistles, air horns, shouting or whatever is available to discourage coyotes from taking shortcuts or frequenting backyards.
Those with questions about coyotes or who are already having problems with coyotes should call the DEM Division of Fish and Wildlife at the Great Swamp Field Headquarters at 401-789-0281.