Nahant plans to bring in sharpshooters to deal with a coyote problem in the town. But not all residents are happy.

Francene Amari-Faulkner, a founder of a group opposing the measure, says the plan is “extreme” and won’t be effective in the long run if residents don’t also change their behavior.

“We're trying to do everything we can to educate people so that they are empowered. And that's really what it comes down to, because there's no reason to be afraid,” she said.

The group launched the Facebook page Nahant Coyotes this week, started distributing lawn signs and have launched an online petition urging the town to reconsider the plan. So far, the petition has more than 2,000 signatures.

If other towns in the state see Nahant use sharpshooters to deal with coyotes rather than use less violent means, Amari-Faulkner says, it could set a precedent for dealing with nuisance animals.

“If Nahant does this, what message does that send out to other communities where people are essentially reactive and ignorant? It’s going to be a bloodbath,” she said.

The Nahant group says that removing the coyotes by killing them isn’t a long-term solution; more coyotes would just move in. The group is proposing alternative methods focused on changing behaviors, like making sure garbage is secured, food isn’t left out and residents learn how to effectively scare off coyotes if they see them.

“That’s all we want to do is, if we can, allay people’s fears and help them see that things can change, then it’s better for them in the future because the coyotes will always be coming back and it’s certainly better for the coyotes,” said Deb Newman, one of the founders of the group.

In December, town officials approved a plan to bring in sharpshooters, which they said was a last resort amid reports that the animals were being more aggressive towards residents and pets in the densely populated North Shore town.

Nahant is the first town in Massachusetts to pursue the sharpshooter option through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dave Wattles, a biologist at MassWildlife says Nahant is pursuing it now because state regulations changed last summer, making it an option for the first time.

Wattles, who has worked with the town on addressing the problem, said that it’s true that coyotes will never completely leave Nahant.

“I think the important thing to recognize here is that this [the sharpshooter plan] is not an attempt at population control. This is an attempt to deal with these animals that pose a human health and safety threat,” he said. “So it is simply trying to remove these aggressive coyotes that pose that threat.”

Coyotes have been in Massachusetts since the 1950s, and are now in almost every community in the state. He said that most of the reported cases of biting humans in the last five years have been from people intentionally feeding the animals.

“The coyote advocacy groups have the same messaging we do,” he said. “Making sure that no one’s providing food to the coyotes, that people are being aggressive and hazing them, so that coyotes don’t develop behaviors, that people are protecting their pets. All of those things are going to be important steps for the long-term coexistence with coyotes there.”

Encounters with coyotes are not uncommon in Massachusetts and are not generally considered a threat to humans. But they can be a threat to pets, including small dogs and cats, which has Nahant residents worried.

But Amari-Faulkner says that stories about coyote interactions in Nahant have been sensationalized by national headlines and alleges that “fearmongering” has been caused by misinformation circulating on social media and in Facebook groups.

She and Newman want the town to focus instead on educating town residents about coyote behavior.

Elizabeth Magner, an animal advocacy specialist at the MSPCA, said they are “disappointed” by the town’s plan. She says pet owners can protect against coyotes by making sure they have dogs on a short leash, don’t have outdoor cats and avoid walks at dawn and dusk if possible.

“There are concrete measures that they could be planning to put in place in order to prevent this kind of culling from happening in the future,” she said. “If wildlife conflict prevention is not taken seriously, you're just going to have a result where there's just a cycle of killing.”

Newman said the opposition group is not trying to place blame on anyone whose pets have been taken but rather teach people about behaviors so that residents can coexist with coyotes.

“I think some of the residents who are scared feel as if they’re being blamed for their behavior — and nobody’s blaming them. We just want them to understand that it can be fixed. They’ll have to help fix it,” she said. “And things could get back to where, you know, coyotes live amongst us.”