2018-07-05 / Around Town

Council Revisits Coyotes Issue

Education Making a Difference
By Christopher Allen

The Middletown Town Council revisited the controversial topic on July 2 of how the town can share Aquidneck Island with coyotes, and how best to instruct the public on the steps to take when dealing with wild animals.

The town invited Middletown Police chief Anthony Pesare for a presentation to “serve as a refresher to some as well as a first-time awareness to others,” according to a letter Council President Robert Sylvia sent to colleagues.

According to council members, there has been an uptick in communications to town officials asking about the proper protocol when confronted by coyotes. But, according to Pesare, recent efforts to educate the public on denying food sources has resulted in a decline in calls to the Department of Environmental Management to relocate the animals.

In 2011, the council passed a resolution supporting the “Best Management Practices for Coexistence with Coyotes” developed by Dr. Numi Mitchell and her team as part of the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study (NBCS) conducted by the Conservation Agency. It coincided with a later resolution that determined a new local feeding ordinance, which prohibited the intentional feeding of coyotes.

Pesare gave a short presentation outlining his department’s policy regarding the ubiquitous wild canines. The main impetus for many unwanted interactions between residents and coyotes, he said, is that the coyotes are losing a fear of humans due to being fed intentionally or finding other food sources, such as dead animal carcasses. Pesare said that any person who is being approached or followed should contact the police department.

“The resident should document any injuries if that [attack] happens,” Pesare said. “An officer will be dispatched. At that point we will work with Dr. Mitchell to determine if that coyote is a danger to others.”

He added that if they fail to mitigate the threat or to locate the food source, “then we have to decide whether lethal force should be employed.”

Coyote hunting is legal in Rhode Island to permitted hunters. It is not uncommon for property owners to hire hunters to remove the threat of coyotes from their land. But this effort is limited if the coyote becomes comfortable moving about more populated residential and commercial parts of town, commonly referred to as becoming “urbanized.”

“As you can imagine, we cannot allow hunting in dense areas,” said Pesare.

“They’re animals,” said Council Vice-President Paul Rodrigues. “They are hungry and looking for food. I get it. Where’s that balance between public safety and the concern for animals? There’s a fine line there.”

Pesare reminded residents that they can call the Department of Environmental Management and request that coyotes be relocated.

In other matters

. Ratified a new contract between the town and the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 21 for July 1, 2108 through June 30, 2021.

. Directed the police department to eliminate two undetermined positions.

. Approved a request by Nathan Stein, Ph.D., a staff psychologist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, to use the town hall chambers for an event on Nov. 11 to honor veterans.

. Approved an application for Summer League Butler Basketball to be held Monday and Wednesday at Pottsy basketball court from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

. Approved a request that the School Committee be added to the Steering Committee, comprised of the town administration and the council, whose mandate is to explore possible consolidation of backroom operations of the town and school administration.

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