by Dr. Tracy Hampton
Wildlife on the Cape - most people agree it's a good thing. But what
happens when animals start invading your space, killing your pets, and
raiding your garbage? More and more people are complaining that
coyotes have become one of the biggest pests on Cape Cod, and wildlife
biologists are having a hard time dealing with the problem.
Ken Texaira has lived in Falmouth his entire life, and he remembers
seeing all sorts of rabbits and chipmunks in his backyard when he was
growing up. But not any more. Like many other residents, he complains
coyotes are taking over - invading backyards, killing small animals, and
going wherever they please.
Ken Texaira: "I was working on Main Street last month, and I saw
two of them walking down the center of the street at 5:30 in the morning."
Texaira says he sees coyotes all the time, and it's gotten to the point
where he's lost his tolerance for the animals.
Ken Texaira: "Coyotes around Falmouth need to be taken care of.
There are too many, they're overpopulated, and they need to be
Chrissie Henner, a wildlife biologist for the state division of fisheries and
wildlife says coyotes used to be thought of as exotic animals that kept
their distance and therefore remained somewhat mysterious. Now,
they're becoming more acclimated to being around humans, and people
aren't happy about that.
Chrissie Henner: "We struggle as biologists to manage species
as natural resources and not allow them to become pests, but when
species become overpopulated and human conflicts occur, they cross
that border and they become pests, and then people want them
But managing coyotes isn't easy. Henner says, to have any noticeable
effect on the population, you have to kill off at least 70 percent of the
animals every year. That's because decreasing the population actually
stimulates reproduction in the surviving coyotes.
Chrissie Henner: "Research has shown that in areas where they
try to control coyote populations, it's a physiological response in that as
soon as there's fewer coyotes, they increase their litter size. 05745 So,
we're fighting a losing battle here, and many people want to try to control
these populations, but it's like throwing money away."
Henner says it's difficult to tell how many coyotes actually live on the Cape,
but she gets thousands of calls a year from residents who spot them, and
she's sure the population is on the rise. She says instead of taking the
attitude that humans are the superior species, people should try to adapt
to wildlife in the area.
Chrissie Henner: "In the northeast, we have bear, moose,
coyotes, beaver, foxes, skunks, and people don't want them. But I think if
they would step back for a moment and realize that there are simple
things that we can do to coexist and also realize that we don't have much
choice with these species that are very, very adaptive, that we'd all be
Some of those simple actions include not feeding pets outdoors, keeping
compost piles contained, and putting trash in secure barrels. Also,
Henner says it's important to keep coyotes wary of humans, so don't feed
or befriend them. But Anne Williams of Falmouth doesn't think any of that
matters. Her dachshund was attacked recently by a coyote in her
backyard, and the dog had to get twenty-two stitches.
Anne Williams: " I was there. I screamed, I hollered, I made
noise. We have motion lights in the yard. The coyote wasn't afraid of the
light. The coyote wasn't afraid of my screaming and yelling. When I hit it
with a shoe, it finally dropped the dog and took off. All of our dogs are
leashed, we keep are yard clean, all the things they say to do were already
Citizens like Williams say they'll continue to complain about coyotes until
something is done. Many want to take matters into their own hands, so
they're signing petitions to get the hunting season expanded - right now, it
goes from November 1st to February 28th. And they want the current
trapping ban lifted.
Dr. Tracy Hampton reports for the Cape & Islands NPR stations.