[OPINION] Suggs To RTM: Vote “No” On Coyote Trapping Law

Early this morning, John Suggs — an RTM member and independent candidate for 1st selectman — sent out this email. He says he has already received 150 responses. He writes:

Tonight (Tuesday, September 5, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall), Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) will vote on a proposed ordinance that would, for the first time in almost 50 years, permit the trapping and killing of coyotes in Westport.

This has come about because of a citizen-led initiative in response to fellow town residents who have tragically lost their beloved pets to coyotes. I’m deeply sympathetic to them. No one should have to live through such a trauma. As a parent and a dog owner myself, I am also committed to finding solutions to help keep our children and pets safe from attack.

However, when I step back and analyze the bigger picture, I remain opposed to the practice this ordinance would sanction.

The unintended consequences of this ordinance means all wild and domestic animals can be maimed and injured. In fact, research shows, on average, 5 out of 7 animals caught in foothold traps proposed by this new ordinance are so-called “non-target animals” — including dogs, cats, owls, hawks and eagles. Animals that become ensnared in these traps struggle for hours or days to free themselves; dislocated joints, broken teeth and, of course, self-amputated limbs are all part of this painful outcome.

There are environmentally friendly, science-based protocols for dealing with coyote conflicts. These sustainable, humane and effective measures include: reducing and/or removing food attractants, ensuring pets are not left outside unattended, hazing habituated coyotes with loud noises, spraying water and/or throwing objects to deter them from closer contact.

I invite everyone to educate themselves about these proven, cruelty-free strategies other communities have successfully employed, as well as the unintentional consequences of foothold traps. For a superb resource please click here.

Whether you agree with Suggs or not, you can email all RTM members at once: RTMMailingList@westportct.gov. You can also click “Comments” below. Please be sure to use your full, real name.  Tonight’s hearing will be televised live on Channel 79 (Cablevision) and Channel 99 (Frontier), and livestreamed here

53 responses to “[OPINION] Suggs To RTM: Vote “No” On Coyote Trapping Law

  1. Cornelia Fortier

    Thank you, Mr. Suggs. You are so right.

  2. Not sure how I feel about this but any traps set should absolutely be monitored (cameras?) 24/7. Eliminate suffering altogether

  3. Inhumane trapping of coyotes is not the solution, as it endangers all kinds of wildlife and pets. Traps do not discriminate. It is possible to coexist with wildlife. Public education is what is needed.

  4. Robert Cornfield

    Yes, but more grey…was HUGE

  5. Andrew Colabella

    I say no to trapping. Everyone should monitor their personal space, property, yard, when letting out their pet if worried. Your personal presence outside when letting your pet out will deter the animal from attacking or entering. Coyotes also play a big part in smaller game (animal) population control such as rabbit, squirrel, snakes, groundhog, even fish and frogs.

  6. Carol Christiaanse

    Trapping is not the answer and coyotes may not even be the correct target. My small dog was attacked and nearly killed in our backyard in Old Hill a year ago by what was probably a fisher. It was definitely not a coyote since our yard is completely fenced in by a deer fence. Although we didn’t witness the attack, the vets were familiar with fishers and told us his wounds were consistent with fishers. We had never heard of them but they have been cited as a nuisance by the Guilford police. They are extremely vicious members of the weasel family and their screams have been heard in Westport. They are small wolverines. My suspicion is that unless people whose pets were attacked actually saw the coyote, a fisher was probably the predator. I now only keep my dog on a leash when he goes out at night in our fenced backyard.

  7. I live a couple of football fields from the Library and don’t have a pet but this morning a chased a red fox out of my backyard. There was blood on the pool deck and luckily I did not find the blood donor but something limped away hurt. Collectively we have allowed so much building that these animals have no place to go or feed. While I appreciate the position of empathy for these wild animals they are a hazard to small pets today and who knows what next. Placing traps in places like Barons South does not put pets or people at risk (or shouldn’t) and might decrease the risks around one’s home.

  8. I am very sorry for the families that have lost pets, my wife and I recently dealt with the death of her family’s dog due to old age and it was so sad.

    Additionally, I agree with John; trapping is not the right solution. In my opinion, emphasis should be put on safe practices at home, rather than “eliminating” a potential threat and by doing so probably creating a false sense of security.

    I am a proud father of two small children and owner of Leo, a 9-year old standard poodle.

  9. Thank you Mr. Suggs for your thoughtful comments & your humane concerns.
    I too am a concerned citizen totally nauseous about the pain which would be inflicted upon any target or non-target animal caught in these barbaric devices & I vote!

    • Then your a little weak stomached bitch this country was founded on trapping and trapping keeps the eco system in check

  10. David J. Loffredo

    We’ve lost two cats to Coyotes, but the neighborhood probably lost dozens of bunnies, birds, and mice to our cats before their turn was up – I think it’s part of the circle of life when you decide to urbanize something that was once exclusively rural and don’t support hunting the hunters unless they’re out in the daylight because they’re sick or injured.

  11. I am a resident of Westport, a parent of Westport students and a graduate of Staples High School.

    I am adamantly opposed to trapping and killing of coyotes in our town. I have many pets, and certainly understand wanting to protect them, but cruel treatment of other animals is not the answer!

    I lived in Los Angeles for 25 years, and coyotes have always been a part of suburban life there—and residents just adjust their behavior to co-exist. Even when I lived in Beverly Hills we would see coyotes out at night. In fact, I had a cat at that time, and there was a small female coyote who would show up in my front yard nightly, and the cat and coyote would stare each other down for hours. I certainly would not have considered injuring the coyote. I kept my cat inside and in our fenced yard.The coyotes will not hurt humans and they will not approach your dog if the dog is on a leash (i.e. close to its owner.)

    The solutions are pretty simple to this problem: do not leave your small pets outside unattended. Walk your dogs on leashes. Keep your trash in bins. Put up a fence around your yard.

    It’s really quite simple to co-exist. I would be so embarrassed to live in a town that would consider such a disgusting option. Please vote NO!

    Cynthia Gibb

  12. Unfortunately the coyotes were here first, and we have to make precaution s to protect our pets. I walk both of my large dogs on a leash in a fenced backyard at night because there are various wild animals including a fox den nearby. My sister’s very suburban neighborhood in Texas has had bobcats for years and they are cautious with their toy poodle. It is scary, but it is what it is. I’m not sure what the best solution is besides doing what we can to not attract wild animals to the yard and supervising our pets. I feel for those who have tragically lost a pet and know it could be me as well. It is devastating to those families. I hope a good solution can be found.

  13. There many more humian ways to deal with this inconvenience — I say & Vote NO

  14. John-just had to ask–with some people in Westport upset with the noise from leaf blowing machines how will they tolerate one of your suggestions:

    hazing habituated coyotes with loud noises.

    Whatever is the right solution-just praying nobody gets hurt.

  15. I agree with John Suggs. I lived in Westport for over 20 years and had ferral cats living in the stone walls on our property. Not all of the kittens made it to the next season – that is the circle of life in nature. Westport has been so over developed that all the woods have disappeared – why should the wild life be tortured anymore. i now live in the Berkshires sourounded by 1000’s of acres of woods and open space. I have seen foxes carrying little kittens (very sad) and my dog has brought me one of my neighbors chickens as a present, and my neighbors dog has gotten into discussions with bears a few times, but I am sure these animals don’t like the fact that there is now a house where they used to roam either. We all have to figure out how to live together – not just as people, but with the others in our souroundings. Don’t leave your little dogs out alone, make sure your kids know what to do when they see wild animals in the yard – its education.

  16. I truly feel for those people who have lost pets, however, the use of foot traps which have been proven to be indiscriminate is absolutely inhumane. Thank you John Suggs for informing us of this imminent vote so that we, as citizens, can work together to find the best solution for these animals. They are part of the ecosystem and through no fault of their own are losing their habitat.

  17. We live in California in an area adjacent to a state reserve. There are numerous coyote sightings in and around our neighborhood and, unfortunately, pets lost to coyotes. Overall, we could do better a better job of alerting pet owners to the risks. This recent article in a local paper is a start and might be of interest to your readers. For smaller dogs, the Coyote Vest mentioned in the article could be a solution. I would like to see information (tips on coyote hazing, etc.) provided to pet owners by the local veterinary clinics, for example, or anytime a new dog or cat is adopted from a local shelter. Education and common sense practices make a difference. My husband and I are pet-owners and years ago my husband lost a pet to a coyote. We are against trapping. Education is key. http://www.delmartimes.net/news/sd-cm-nc-coyotes-20170731-story.html

  18. Thank you John Suggs for this incredibly important message. Trapping is most definitely not the answer!! As a pet owner I absolutely sympathize with those who have lost pets. However in this case education about alternate methods is key, and addressing the issue in an informed, and most importantly HUMANE manner!

  19. Bill Boyd (Staples 1966)

    Leg hold traps are a VERY BAD IDEA!
    T hey will trap the unintended….pet dogs…cats..young children et al…
    Once an animal is trapped..then what?
    Kill it and do what with the body?
    The pro trappers are not experienced with the potential issues…..these proponents typically come from city life where they have no knowledge of suburban or “country” life.
    The first time a three year old gets caught in one the program Will be over with every one pointing fingers….LET’S AVOID THAT. Other , better solutions exist.

  20. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    When I was 14 in ’66 there was a family living on Imperial Ave. whose dog was viciously killed by river rats from the Saugatuck. The overwhelming sentiment as I recall was that the solution was not leaving the dog outside tethered alone. They don’t call them domesticated pets for no reason. You need to look out for them the same as you would a defenseless child. that’s what you sign up for when you get a pet.

  21. I strongly oppose the proposed ordinance to permit the trapping and killing of coyotes in Westport.

    I, too, believe these traps and killings promote animal cruelty and will affect a larger population of animals than just coyotes. My family lives in an area where coyotes are present and we have learned to live in balance with them. For instance, we keep our cats inside and we educate our children about what to do if they happen to experience a rare sighting of these relatively shy creatures. We also keep our garbage in closed containers in our garage.

    With the deer population as it is in Westport, do we really want to eliminate one of their long standing and effective predators? Do we want to put other animals at risk who might also get caught in these traps? Is it honestly justifiable to kill wild animals who have long made this area their home just because a few people fail to take adequate precautions to keep their small pets safe? I am deeply sorry for those who have suffered pain due to the tragic loss or injury of their dearly loved pets to coyotes, but I still don’t think it justifies the proposed ordinance.

    Coyotes are valuable to humans and in nature. Their presence helps to maintain balance. Their main diet consists of easy prey / small mammals that some often consider pests, including mice, rats, snakes, squirrels and chipmunks. Coyotes rarely eat larger animals unless they are desperately hungry or the animal is perceived to be easy to get.

    I believe a community education program about Coyote Safety will far better serve the citizens and animal residents of Westport.

  22. Trapping Coyotes is a HUGE overreactive measure especially in a suburban environment. Yes, it is a tragedy someone has lost their dog but they are equally responsible for the animals safe guarding. A commonsensical approach is supervising your pets and fencing your yard if you let them out to play on there own.

    Maybe those who want to propose trapping should just invest in a roadrunner….”BEEP…BEEP!!!”

  23. Sylvia Robinson Corrigan

    I vote “no” to trapping coyotes for some of the reasons stated above: hurting, maiming or killing unintended victims, keeping a balance of nature by the coyotes feeding on certain pests, and also perhaps asking us to strengthen protective measures for our own pets.An education program for all sounds good, as well.

  24. Thank you for your thoughtful, logical, and compassionate look at this issue John. I’m curious where the other first selectman candidates stand on the issue?

  25. We need to be more diligent as citizens who have invaded the territories
    of our various animal species. They need our respect and we need discipline with our animals. It is not difficult to walk a dog on a leash. Julie Fatherley

  26. I’m opposed to trapping for all the reasons stated above.

    But I do have a question about the proposed ordinance itself; I understand that it would permit trapping on town owned property – including Winslow Park, the schools, Longshore , Compo Beach, etc. Considering all the various ways this lethal combination could go very wrong, did anyone on the RTM Ordinance Committee work out what kind of liability exposure we’d be facing?

  27. Becky Newman Director of Nature Programs

    Earthplace votes no for the trapping of any animal species. Especially with methods that will harm any animal. Removing these animals will also have a major affect on our ecosystems.

  28. May be the biggest carrier of rabies, mange, and distemper. They are a threat to many because no action has been taken. Rural and urban both have come into contact with the zombie coyote. The biggest indication of over population.

  29. Thanks for posting. I emailed the RTM.

  30. I have a fenced in yard and still deal with several determined coyotes that think my very Large dog is fair game. I think we should trap and re home. As it stands now we are not even allowed to even “have a heart trap them”. I agree leg holds might be a bit barbaric but something needs to be done when you have a pack that wants to make my beloved pet there dinner. Yes I have tried the loud noises and the lights and all other suggestions but there are times when they are must be something else allowed to be done.

  31. I’m a trapper and your facts are incorrect. I can count on one hand the number of non target animals I caught in 40 years. If done correctly this doesn’t happen. If foot hold traps are a problem, try uses snares. They are very affective and does not kill the animal. Don’t make trapper look bad with your peta rhetoric. We control over population and nuisance animals.

  32. Francis R Winter

    Why should pet owner’s be inconvenient in having to keep their pets leash and have to be cautious about what food was left out. If pet owner’s a needing to keep their pets leashed ,there shouldn’t be a problem with the trapping of other domestic animals being caught . Evidently you have never had a pet lost to a wolf or coyote and most recently attacked when on a leash

  33. William Strittmatter

    For what it is worth, coyotes are not indigenous to Connecticut and humans in Connecticut have not expanded into the coyotes’ territory. It is the other way around – coyotes are the invasive non-native species here.

    From the CT DEEP website:

    “Coyotes were not originally found in Connecticut, but have extended their range eastward during the last 100 years from the western plains and midwestern United States, through Canada and into the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. Coyotes were first reported in Connecticut in the mid-1950s. For the next 10 years, most coyote reports were from northwestern Connecticut. Coyotes eventually expanded their range throughout the entire state and are now a part of Connecticut’s ecosystem. The coyote is one wildlife species that has adapted to human-disturbed environments and can thrive in close proximity to populated areas.”

    http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2723&q=325992

    As to whether they should be trapped, well, they are one of the few predators for deer so probably worth keeping them around for that since we don’t want deer hunting. Of course a coyote or two taking down a deer and ripping it apart is arguably more vicious and cruel than a well aimed arrow or bullet but at least coyotes don’t leave wounded animals to escape into the woods I guess. Anyway, if there is collateral damage of a few lost pets, as some note “circle of life” and at least we aren’t being mean to coyotes.

    Then again, I live in Fairfield so none of my business really.

  34. What is really sad is that you like most politicians get there facts from a fiction novel, its a fact that non target animals hawks and Eagles are not attracted to urine or scent glands
    You are part of the problem in this world you have forgotten or maybe never cared to learn that you are here because of the trapper and the hunter, America was founded on the very culture.
    A true trapper is a huge part of game conservation. The picture you paint is very different from the truth. Coyotes can live under some extreme conditions and if you think removing a little food will detour them, guess again.
    It’s why you and most other politicians let us Americans down every day.
    Your not for the people, your for an agenda.
    If you would let the trappers do what they know how to do this problem will be handled quickly and humanely. You don’t leave traps unattended for days and most coyotes caught in a foothold or snare are completly calm some will even sleep.
    So I don’t know where you get your facts but it wasn’t from a trapper, someone who has spent hours in the field.
    The people who voted you into office are asking for your help so help them. If trapping were aloud in years past we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
    Contact your local fish and game office and ask for the trappers who have been doing it for a length of time and take care of the situation.
    They will make money to feed there families and your town will be happy to let the dog outside to play.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      This response was bananas. To be against leg hold traps isn’t to be against “the American way,” and unpatriotic! In a densely populated area, there are safer and more humane ways of dealing with aggressive wildlife. As much as we would like to pretend otherwise, Westport is fairly densely populated and the areas that were targeted for trapping in this proposal would also have some of the highest usage for recreation in town. I don’t want to be trudging at Baron’s and get caught in a leg trap, or have my child wandering bushwhacking and get caught because they don’t pay attention! Putting people, pets, and non-target animals at risk is not the proper way. This isn’t about being a “good American,” it’s about being decent and mindful human beings.

      Also, while I’m being pedantic, it’s “you’re” as in “you are.”

  35. Killing isn’t a resolution to this problem. Humans are encroaching on wildlife territory, learn to live in peace and don’t leave you pets unattended. You don’t leave babies or toddlers unattended. If you can’t provide a safe environment for your fur babies please don’t have human babies.

  36. After 4 hours of debate, the RTM voted 29-2 against the petition to allow the trapping of coyotes. There was one abstention. Westport is the only town in Connecticut that does not allow hunting and trapping of coyotes.

  37. Valerie Smith-Malin

    Last year New Canaan’s RTM was interested in a ban on trapping. However, their Town Attorney informed them that state law gives all authority over trapping and hunting to the state Department of Energy and Environment. New Canaan could not implement an ordinance that went against state law.
    So Westport may be the only town that does not allow hunting or trapping, but that may not be by choice.

    • Westport is the only town/city in CT that the General Assembly has granted power to regulate trapping and hunting on all property. Private and public. In every other town/city in CT the power to regulate trapping and hunting is held by the State. In theory if you engage in hunting or trapping in Westport (and stay within the CT state game laws) you aren’t breaking a statute/law but violating a town ordinance (similar to launching a boat across the beach). You would need to pay a mail in fine of something like $90. If you go to court in Norwalk they either throw the ticket out or make you pay $30.

  38. Trapping and hunting is the most efficient animal control means b available

  39. Coyotes are way over populated all across America trapping and hunting is the most successful way in which to bring there numbers down and people think of foothold traps as the foothold traps of the past with sharp teeth and steel jaws this is not the case with most trappers who have taken a class you can use offset jaws with a spring connected between the trap chain and stake to reduce any harm to any non target animals you can also use rubber jaw footholds very effective in not injuring non target animals ive actually trapped coyotes using these methods and they would be asleep when id walk up on them to dispatch them so quit trying to ruin trappers reputations if trappers had more areas to trap we could get younger men and women to get interested in trapping thus spending more time doing that instead of smoking pot

  40. Charles Schwefel

    What about LIVE TRAPPING? Zoo’s do it ALL THE TIME… Just ask The Bronx Zoo! Coyotes wander into The Bronx Zoo every year… They come down south from Northern NY State Counties (Dutchess and Putnam) by following The Bronx River. I know because I worked at The Bronx Zoo. And, I lived in New Canaan, Westport and Fairfield CT for 20 years, and, we had to live trap and relocate pairs of coyotes from my area in Greenfield Hill. The coyotes were living in The Brett Woods Open Space. This idea of ankle and foothold trapping is Ignorant and Ludicrous.

  41. I was curious to know how New Canaan has handled its coyote issue. In December 2016, a coyote was seen dragging around a hunting trap, that had apparently attached to its leg:

    http://www.newcanaannewsonline.com/news/articleComments/Injured-coyote-spotted-around-town-with-hunting-10825255.php

    Another article shows a photo of a red fox that had its leg caught in a trap in New Canaan: https://newcanaanite.com/unintended-leg-hold-trapping-of-fox-on-briscoe-road-prompts-concern-from-neighbors-advocates-34962

    Setting traps, as has been done in New Canaan, seems inhumane.

  42. A couple of years ago, I had a family of woodchucks living in my garden — a mommy, daddy and four babies. I called a local exterminator who only does live trapping. They set Have-a-Heart traps and relocated all six woodchucks to a wooded area upstate. I don’t see why they couldn’t do that for coyotes.

  43. It’s a shame that the RTM voted against Coyote trapping in Westport. The community is being swayed by emotion and animal rights talking points rather than data. When enough dogs and cats are maimed, killed, and eaten by these non-native predators and when young children are threatened or bitten, perhaps folks will form a different opinion then- though too late….

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