Tag Archives: coyotes

Earth Day Plea: Fear “Digital Crack,” Not Coyotes

Today is Earth Day. Richard Wiese — host and executive producer of the Westport-based “Born to Explore” TV series — sends along a timely note. 

It’s co-signed by Jim Fowler — Wiese’s longtime friend, “Wild Kingdom” spokesman and Darien resident — as well as Dr. Marc Bekoff, a coyote expert at the University of Colorado who has worked with both Wiese and Jane Goodall. They say:

Nature and its wildlife are under siege. We also are witnessing a new generation of children who regard the outdoors as “a place that doesn’t get Wi-Fi.”

When Richard moved to Fairfield County almost a decade ago, he was told by neighbors not to leave his young children outside at dusk because coyotes might eat them. At the time this sounded amusing — who leaves their 2-year-olds alone anywhere, much less outdoors?

Richard Wiese and his family, enjoying the Westport outdoors.

Fast forward to the present. Not a day goes by where someone confesses that they are afraid to go outside because of the “coyote problem.” Worse yet, some are even arming themselves just in case.

There are many threats in our lives, but coyotes should rank far behind guns, alcohol, drugs, distracted drivers and even lawn mowers.

Yes, each year, 800 children are run over by riding mowers or small tractors, and more than 20,000 are injured.

The representation of animals — especially carnivores — in the media is based on bad science or no science, which is bad for the animals. What does the available data show? Coyotes very rarely attack. To put it in perspective, meteorites have hit more homes in Connecticut than people who have been harmed or killed by coyotes.

Research clearly shows that coyotes and other urban animals fear people. Most animals don’t associate good things happening to them around humans.  Whenever possible they avoid us at all costs.

What should we fear? Or rather, be outraged by? On any given beautiful day, we have legions of children sitting on a couch hypnotized by their electronic devices. Digital crack.

We fear that we are raising a generation of children who have “nature deficit disorder “ and are totally removed from the outdoors.

Psychologist Susan Linn notes, “Time in green space is essential to children’s mental and physical health … And the health of the planet depends on a generation of children who love and respect the natural world enough to protect it from abuse and degradation.”

We should appreciate the presence of coyotes and educate ourselves on how to coexist with them, rather than instilling fear of them.  Let’s encourage the media to provide a more balanced view of coyotes (and other animals) based on what we know about them rather than irresponsible sensationalism. And for goodness sake, get your kids outside, let them track mud into the house, have grass stains on their knees and be thoroughly exhausted from fresh air and sunshine.

We need to re-wild not only our children, but also ourselves — before it’s too late.

Only 39 Days Until Spring…

…but this blue jay can’t wait.

(Photo/Irene Penny)

(Photo/Irene Penny)

Today’s snowstorm was just as predicted: quick and heavy. Already, it seems to be winding down.

But it left plenty of cancellations in its wake.

Among them: tonight’s discussion on alternatives to coyote trapping and killing. It’s been rescheduled for Monday (February 13), 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

Coyote Meeting Set For Thursday

A few days ago, I posted a story about a deadly coyote attack on a Westporter’s beloved dog.

Many “06880” readers responded with comments.

Third selectman Helen Garten responded by contacting colleagues on the Connecticut Council of the Humane Society of the United States. She wondered if there are ways to prevent coyote conflicts without resorting to hunting or trapping — both of which have limited effectiveness in a suburb like Westport.

Laura Simon — a wildlife ecologist who has helped other communities, and whose work has been featured in the New York Times, on NPR and the Ellen DeGeneres Show — volunteered to come here. On Thursday.

So on February 9 (7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), she’ll answer questions about coyote behavior, and provide alternative solutions.

The meeting will also include information on current state legislative efforts to ban trapping.

“Before we make decisions with lasting consequences, we owe it to ourselves to understand all options,” Garten says.

The public is invited to attend.

Coyotes may look harmless. They're not.

Coyotes may look harmless. They’re not.

Coyotes!

Alert, angry and saddened “06880” reader Peter Mackey writes:

The other day we said goodbye to our dear friend Murphy. We rescued our snaggle-toothed mixed breed dog a dozen years ago. He was a childhood companion to our kids, and the inseparable buddy of our other dog, Leilah.

Murphy did not die of old age. He died from a vicious, brutal attack by coyotes in our front yard, on Charcoal Hill Road.

It was a quiet Saturday evening. As usual, I let our dogs out at dusk, to do their final duties. But I’ll never forget that night.

Murphy

Murphy

Murphy had 27 puncture wounds, his muscles ripped from his spinal cord, and internal damage he would never recover from. I apologize for the graphic description, but it’s important we all are aware of how deadly these animals are.

As harrowing as that evening and the next day were, it’s the experience we had afterward that prompts this note. In the process of dealing with this, I’ve discovered that Westport is the only town in Connecticut that has an ordinance against trapping or killing wild animals on private property. Even predators as cruel and ferocious as coyotes.

Officer Gina Gambino of Westport Animal Control told us that Westport Code of Ordinance 10-1 and 10-2 forbid trapping or hunting  coyotes in this town. She said there is nothing that she or her department can do to protect our neighborhood from predators.

“I don’t make the laws. I just enforce them,” was the general response.

Coyotes are now at the top of the Westport food chain. Because surrounding towns allow trapping, they’re proliferating here.

All pets, and even small children are at risk. Murphy was a medium-sized dog weighing 40 pounds. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection warns owners of pets under 25 pounds to be aware of coyotes. That’s an outdated standard.

As our climate warms, coyotes who would normally be in their dens are roaming our yards, looking for food wherever they can find it. With their proliferation comes increased adaptation to human environments. The longer they’re here, the more comfortable they become.

The Mackey family (minus Peter) and their dogs.

The Mackey family (minus Peter) and their dogs.

I hope this letter increases awareness of this clear and present danger; opens dialogue between residents and the RTM about this ordinance, and encourages Westport Animal Control to take some responsibility for helping citizens deal with this issue, ordinance or no ordinance.

If you recently sighted a coyote on your property, report it to the police. Get your RTM members involved.

I can’t imagine I live in the only Connecticut town that places the safety of its predator population above its citizens and their pets.

Last night the coyotes were back in our yard, howling 10 feet outside our bedroom window. Fortunately, Leilah was inside.

Wild Things

The recent hot, rainy weather has taken its toll. And not just on humans.

Recent conditions have created perfect conditions for West Nile virus-bearing mosquitoes to breed.

Coyotes, meanwhile, have suffered. One sick puppy — literally — was put down yesterday, on Bobwhite Drive.

It’s been a wonderful summer in Westport. But be careful out there.

A mange-ridden coyote. (Photo/Stephanie Stallone, courtesy WestportNow.com)

Wild Wild Westport

A local company sent this email to employees yesterday:

“Please exercise extra caution when walking through the parking lot, and in the general neighborhood.

“Coyotes have been spotted in the parking lot, with one seen moving between cars this past Saturday.  We’ve also been advised that packs have been spotted late at night in the parking lot and on Saugatuck Avenue.

“Although coyotes typically will not bother humans, we understand a few years back an employee walking through the woods from the Westport train station was chased by a coyote.  If you are followed by a coyote, it is advised that you yell and raise your hands to scare the animal off.”

Let’s hope that strategy is more effective than whatever has not been working on deer and Canada geese.

Coyote