Friday, March 7, 2014
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Thomas Behen, 14, has seen coyotes in his Biddeford neighborhood on several occasions this winter. Behen is de-scenting an animal trap that he hopes to use to trap coyotes near his home once he passes a trapping course and receives his trapping license.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Scott Lindsey, a biologist with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said the coyotes in the Cathedral Oaks area are part of a family group, with two mating adults and two or three pups from last year's litter. The pair likely will produce another litter of four to six pups in June.
Coyote families tend to stay in one area in the winter, and are unlikely to be joined by more coyotes, he said.
"It's not like you're going to have 20 coyotes there in a small area," Lindsey said.
Wildlife officials and biologists say education is key for addressing complaints about coyotes, especially in urban and suburban settings, where people aren't as accustomed to dealing with wildlife.
Lindsey said residents should educate themselves about the normal behavior of coyotes so they know when something isn't right.
For example, it can be normal for a coyote to walk through a yard. Usually, people can "haze" coyotes, scaring them away by making noises and throwing things toward them.
If a coyote stays put when approached, "that's something that indicates the animal is getting too comfortable there," Lindsey said. "When you have an animal that has crossed that line where they're no longer afraid of people and see them as a potential source of food, they need to be targeted and removed and killed."
But Geri Vistein, a Maine-based conservation biologist who is now working with Biddeford to address the coyote issue, said removing and killing the animals exacerbates the problem by disrupting coyote families.
She said that developing a coyote management plan, educating people not to feed wild animals and teaching them how to haze coyotes is the most effective way for the city to deal with the complaints.
It also is important to dispel the fear that many people have when they see coyotes in their yards, Vistein said. Coyotes rarely attack humans, especially when they aren't being fed by them, she said.
Still, residents say they want something done about the coyotes in their neighborhoods.
Roger Hurtubise, who has lived on Village Lane for 25 years, said "this year seemed like the worst year ever for coyotes."
They have become almost tame, he said, coming close to houses, snatching pets and howling at night. "The screeching, you wouldn't believe it," he said.
Hurtubise said he feels bad for the families who now have to keep a closer eye on their kids while they play outside. He no longer lets his cat out unsupervised, he has brought in his bird feeders and he bought an air horn to scare away coyotes that get too close.
On East Brook Lane, residents text warnings to each other when coyotes are spotted. Paul, the resident who first saw coyotes months ago, said he worries about his neighbors' pets and children.
"We would like to see (the coyotes) gone, absolutely," he said.
Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:
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Coyotes are found throughout Maine, and a family of them has made its home in Biddeford.
Robert F. Bukaty/2003 AP file