PHOTOS: Do's and don'ts posted for Westerly coyotes

Warning signs have been posted along shoreline roads in Watch Hill and Misquamicut warning residents of the presence of coyotes. Residents in those areas have complained about the loss of dogs and have expressed fear of possible attacks on people. Wildlife and animal control officials have advised residents not to feed the animals, and the town passed an ordinance at the end of October that says “no person shall leave, store, or maintain any food or attractant in a manner, area or location accessible to coyotes.” The law imposes a $100 fine for a first offense. Harold Hanka, The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — Town officials are looking into the the pros and cons of an organized effort to reduce the population of coyotes by hunting.

Town Manager J. Mark Rooney, in an interview last week, said he planned to ask the town's animal control officer, Art Smith, to speak with officials at the state Department of Environmental Management to obtain permits and to research the cost of hiring professional hunters.

The decision follows a meeting Rooney had late last month with Robert Saglio, a resident who has organized an online alert network through a Facebook group called Westerly Coyote report. The group, which started in October, has 1,080 members. Town Council members Karen Cioffi and Sharon Ahern also attended the meeting, as did Smith.

In October, Saglio and several others attended a council meeting at which an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of wild animals was approved. He spoke in favor of the ordinance but asked for additional measures to deter the animals, whose presence has alarmed a number of residents and visitors in recent years. Saglio and the others described incidents of coyotes behaving aggressively and making off with dogs and cats, or trying to do so.

During the meeting last month, Rooney said that Saglio reported the presence of 8 to 10 coyotes dens. Because of the mild winter, Rooney said he would not be surprised if the number of coyotes increases in Westerly.

Rooney said he planned to discuss the coyote issue publicly with the Town Council soon. The council, he said, would have to sign off on spending town funds to hire hunters. Cioffi told The Sun that Saglio discussed the possibility of members of his group donating money to hire the hunters.

Rooney added that Saglio had requested a public forum meeting to discuss coyotes. But the manager said he believed the issue had been adequately addressed publicly during council meetings.

While he was willing to explore the request for hunting, Rooney noted that DEM experts have previously told town officials that efforts to reduce the size of the local coyote population would likely not be effective for long. One of the experts, he said, reported that "you can shoot them this year but the population will just grow back into the void."

Efforts to reduce the size of the coyote population, whether by the town or other entities, must be lawful, Rooney said. Rhode Island law prohibits the discharge of firearms within 500 feet "of any occupied dwelling house, residence, or other building occupied by human beings, or any barn, stable, or other building used in connection therewith, without the specific permission of the owner or tenant."

Cioffi said she continues to see coyotes roaming in the road outside her East Avenue residence. She praised the town's efforts to educate the public about the presence of coyotes in the community by posting signs throughout the town, and said that Saglio's facebook group was helpful.

"To move forward I'd like see if we can get the permits and perhaps get a hunter to thin out the dens," Cioffi said. "The dens have been identified to some extent. The situation is very concerning."

But Cioffi said she would not support the expenditure of town funds toward the cost of hiring hunters. Instead, she said, members of Saglio's group would have to cover the cost. She also warned against assuming that an organized hunt would eradicate the coyote population.

"We know it's not the be all and end all. It's not going to solve the problem completely," Cioffi said.

Saglio did not respond to a message seeking comment for this article. Ahern could not be reached for comment.

dfaulkner@thewesterlysun.com

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(12) comments

Voiceofreason

Fair enough end to a day-long debate.. a much longer time allotment than a town meeting would have allowed. I did my best to express my own views on the matter with little emotion or any name calling, I really don’t feel you gave me the same respect. The readers can judge for themselves. I believe my own views are of a silent majority .. but there has not been vote on it.. so who knows ?

Voiceofreason

Well, the question that should be asked and may ultimately and unfortunately have to be answered : WHO is criminally or
civilly liable for injuries or worse , when the coyote (coywolf) kills or maims.. the public or private property owners that have knowledge of the
location of the active den? Westerly is a town of neighborhoods and not a rural landscape , where hikers would be encouraged to hike at their own risk or be able to defend themselves if need be from wild animals. The fear of humans does not seem to be there, as it would be if there were not so many of them. Also, note there are great whites (numerous since a complete ban on hunting them) in New England waters and a talented bodyboarder with a bright future was killed on Cape Cod this past summer.. the signs (warned of the sharks) did nothing to protect him .. and the response by some avid environmentalists (with religious fervor) was that we have no business being in the water.. and apparently we don’t belong in our own neighborhoods either. What do the sharks and coyotes have in common? : they are both apex, opportunistic predators that survive on eating (huge amounts) of the very,’protected things that a person would need a fishing or hunting license (stripers and seals in the water and toms on land) to take and when they run out of “easy pickings “ , they go after whatever they can get at the moment.

jimfed67

Interesting debate strategy. I can't keep up with the hypotheticals. I've ran out of a rational argument to counter this lunacy. Take care and good luck with your crusade.

Voiceofreason

My point was that there is documented rabies in Westerly, which is spead by animal bites; also, a quick internet search will show that there have been multiple , documented attacks of coyotes on people throughout New England over the past 10 years, fortunately no deaths. A 22 year old man in Old Lyme, who was mowing his lawn, fought off a coyote that he said , was “intent on killing” him. We have been so fortunate thus far that no PERSON has been killed. Coyotes are not pets and are not on leashes, muzzled, or have their vaccination papers on hand. Stray dogs are
captured in neighborhoods and removed for the same reason coyotes should not be part of a “healthy neighborhood ecosystem “ .

jimfed67

There has been rabies in Westerly since time immemorial. I don't see any documented reports on the internet that coyotes have attacked people in Westerly. You're running out of reasons to kill. There is NO REASON for a PERSON to fear being killed by a coyote in Westerly.

Voiceofreason

The coyotes in Westerly are a mix of wolf and western coyote DNA. They are in abundance do to benefiting from living alongside humans. Small children are certainly in danger, as well as pets. The coyotes can carry rabies, ticks, and multiple viruses. A healthy population of coyotes will happen either naturally (through disease and starvation) or through our efforts to bring their number down to a manageable level. Extreme hunger (how many turkeys are left in town?) and/or rabies put the citizens of Westerly at risk and is the responsibility of town officials to assure their safety.

jimfed67

Thanks for the subjective cherry picking... For those of you who want to educate yourself free of said subjectivity and ignorance, there is plenty of information online that refutes the above post. "Voiceofreason" is preying on peoples fears in supporting "our" efforts to regulate the population of coyotes in Westerly. "Rabies, ticks and multiple viruses" are carried by more wildlife than just coyotes. In fact, family pets carry the same. Completely ridiculous suggestion from those who are motivated by emotion, fear and profound ignorance.We're talking just a fraction of a percent of the population who have had their pets attacked by coyotes. There have been no attacks on children and to suggest that children are in danger is reckless.It is the responsibility of town officials to educate the ignorant. Westerly is not at risk and the wild turkey population is flourishing.

Voiceofreason

A three year old and a five year old child were attacked at a New York playground by a coyote in May, 2018, and had to get rabies shots; they fortunately were saved by a hero police officer. Suggesting that those who do not agree with you are ignorant (because
they voice a difference of opinion ) is uncalled for in what should be civil discourse. A Misquamicut golfer was attacked by a rabid fox in 2017 and a visitor’s dog was killed by a coyote last year . A 19 year-old talented, female folk singer was killed by a pair of coyotes , hiking in Nova Scotia, in 2009: and that is where the idea of a new breed called “coywolf” came from, as it had
become clear that there was something different in this attack. Biting , predatorial animals in town should not be left completely unchecked.

jimfed67

Keeping the issue close to home in WESTERLY.... The golfer attacked by a rabid fox, the fox was caught and determined to have rabies? A "visitors" dog was killed by a coyote... These are but two instances in WESTERLY and hardly cause for alarm. One instance didn't involve a coyote and the other didn't involve a human.... There is NO problem with coyotes in WESTERLY. There are one or two people who have a problem with coyotes... YOU are motivated by retribution, fear and ignorance. I'm not saying YOU are ignorant because we don't agree, I'm saying YOU are ignorant because of your lack of knowledge/education about the subject and that you are basing your argument on the killing of "a 19 year-old talented, female folk singer" that was regretfully killed by a pair of coyotes in NOVA SCOTIA.

Leagen

Excuse me but I feel the Coyotes have a Right To Life as well as we Humans do. WE have encroached on their territories to the point they have no choice but to come to where we r now and I feel it is the Humans who need to Back OFF!

jimfed67

As any educated ecologist will explain... the coyote population in Westerly is/will self-regulate. The coyote group on social media advocating for a hunt to cull the population was borne of emotion, fear, and profound ignorance. That town officials would even explore the possibility of a hunt is troubling and speaks volumes about their own emotion, fear and profound ignorance.

Leagen

Mostly borne of Stupidity. Leave the Coyotes ALONE. Town OFFICIALS need to rethink their Choices. leave the Coyotes ALONE.. Makes u wonder just how many Officials Ever Leave the City Limits? R u all Under age 30?

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