Wednesday, June 19, 2013
By Gillian Graham email@example.com
BIDDEFORD — A few months ago, Alex Paul was surprised to see a coyote wander across the backyard of his home on East Brook Lane.
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
Within a couple of weeks, he would see three or four coyotes walking together through the suburban neighborhood, not far from Biddeford's busy downtown.
Cats and a dog in the neighborhood disappeared, residents began keeping a close eye on young children playing outside, and coyotes were seen walking down the road, appearing unafraid of people.
"We'd see them at all hours of the day. We found that odd," Paul said. "They seemed very bold and very comfortable around civilization."
Game wardens have fielded at least 30 complaints from residents about the appearance of a family of coyotes in their densely populated neighborhoods, prompting state officials to consider having a state-licensed animal damage control agent shoot at least some of the coyotes.
The city has scheduled a meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday in the new lecture hall at Biddeford High School to update residents on the situation, dispel rumors about rabid coyotes and educate them about coyotes, said City Manager John Bubier.
The city also plans to work with a Maine-based conservation biologist to develop a coyote management plan, teach residents how to co-exist with the predators and educate people through public access television.
"The coyotes have been there for 25 to 30 years. What's new is people are seeing them walk through the backyard," Bubier said.
Coyotes are sometimes seen in urban and suburban areas, especially as development spreads into their territory. Even major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago have had problems with coyotes, which are highly adaptable and intelligent, say wildlife biologists.
Seeing coyotes in her neighborhood in Biddeford has been a little unnerving for Erin Behen of Village Lane. But it's fascinating for her 14-year-old son, Thomas, an avid hunter.
Since he saw a coyote at the school bus stop one morning, Thomas Behen has spent hours researching coyotes and preparing to take a state course to become a licensed trapper. On Monday afternoon, he practiced preparing a coyote trap outside his house.
The Behen family started hearing coyotes in the neighborhood last summer.
"It would sound like a big party. It was like a loud, screaming crowd, and then you'd realize it was coyotes," said Erin Behen. "It's a Catch-22. You don't want to kill them, but you worry about having them in a residential neighborhood."
While Behen said she is now hesitant to walk her dog at night, she has noticed fewer problems with skunks in the neighborhood.
Warden Rick Laflamme said he started seeing a spike in complaints about coyotes in Biddeford in mid-October, all concentrated in one square mile that encompasses the Cathedral Oaks neighborhood, Village Lane and Shaws Hill Road.
The flurry of 30 calls caught the attention of state wildlife officials. Game wardens and biologists met with about 100 residents on Dec. 27 to talk about the issue.
"People had been confronted by (coyotes) while they were walking their pets. I heard about coyotes laying on lawns in the middle of the day," Laflamme said. "They're looking for food, that's what they do. They're very adaptable and can get anything, from bird feed to hunting and killing a deer."
Rumors swirled around town that there was a rabid coyote, but Laflamme said it was a coyote with mange.
Laflamme shot and killed the sick animal on Dec. 31 after it wandered through the city, almost causing several accidents before it ended up in a parking lot.
Since 1994, the state has recorded only two cases of rabid coyotes, both in 2000.
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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