SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 7, 2013

Expert offers insight on coyotes

HAMILTON — Coyotes continue to make their presence known on the North Shore. As recently as Monday evening in Salem, a man called police to report being chased by an aggressive coyote on Fort Avenue near the power plant.

But an author and researcher who spent the last 10 years studying eastern coyotes says the animals should not be considered dangerous.

“My take-home message is that they do well around people so long as we tolerate them,” Jonathan Way said during a lecture at the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library on Tuesday night.

Way, a wildlife biologist, is the author of “Suburban Howls: Tracking the Eastern Coyote in Urban Massachusetts.” During his talk, he explained that the coyote is one of the few carnivores to actually increase its range and distribution in the past 100 years. It has taken over as the top predator in all environments in New England, from wilderness parks to city greenbelts, with the eradication of most of its competition, especially wolves.

In the case of Monday’s incident, an officer said there had been a coyote in the area of the power plant “for years.” Way said during an interview yesterday that he couldn’t say for certain whether the animal was actually a coyote, but he did say that its behavior would be “extremely abnormal” for one.

“It just sounds like something very strange, and something very, very out of the ordinary,” Way said. “Chasing a kid and snapping its jaws while it ran for a while is very aberrant.”

Although he said it’s possible that a coyote could act strangely if it were infected with a disease such as rabies, Way said he couldn’t name another instance where a coyote was known to have chased a human being, and that the animal seen on Fort Avenue was more likely a dog.

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