Westerly’s eastern coyotes certainly have received a bad rap. That is too bad, as they are an absolutely magnificent creature and a major wildlife success story in North America. I can appreciate that some of our citizens are afraid of them, but the facts are very clear that incidents of coyotes attacking people are very rare. I think that the facts really do speak for themselves. In North America only about 9 people are bitten by coyotes each year (Baker and Timm 2017). Compare this to the fact that 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs annually in the United States (CDC 2015) and you realize just how rare coyote bites are.
I want to let the citizens of Westerly know that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has been in contact with the Westerly Town Council and has offered to help the town set up their highly successful coyote management program for municipalities. HSUS has helped municipalities all across the nation develop effective plans that help reduce conflicts between people, pets and coyotes.
One thing that the citizens should know is that most wildlife experts, including the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, acknowledge that the killing of coyotes does not work in controlling coyote populations and in many cases has led to an increase in coyote populations. The reason is that coyotes are territorial, and when you kill one group of coyotes, a new group almost immediately moves in to replace the old ones, and in many cases has larger litters of pups. So the killing of our eastern coyotes that unfortunately some people want to do is a failed strategy right from the start in reducing populations.
I would ask that Council President Duhamel invite HSUS in for a Town Council meeting so that all Westerly citizens can hear from this nationally renowned organization. I have to believe that the majority of our citizens want Westerly to remain an eco-friendly town and do not support the mass killing of any of our wildlife. That type of thinking went out 50 years ago with the conservation movement in our country. To learn the facts about our eastern coyotes, please visit Rhode Island DEM’s website at www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/coyote.pdf. Education and respect are the keys of learning how to coexist with our wildlife.
The writer is a former two-term Westerly town councilor.