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March 7, 2013

Expert offers insight on coyotes

(Continued)

“People think coyotes are very bold,” Way said during the lecture. “The real paradox is that they live in our area but try to avoid us.”

Every year, he said, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs, causing around 1,000 visits per day to the hospital emergency rooms and 15 to 20 deaths. In comparison, he said, five people have been bitten by coyotes in Massachusetts’ history, and there have only been two recorded fatalities in North America, one in the early 1980s and one in Nova Scotia in 2009.

To happily coexist with coyotes, Way suggested making a loud noise outside and banging pots and pans to chase them away if you don’t want them in your yard. He also urged people not to feed them or any other animals outside. Always leash dogs when walking outside, he said, and do not let your cat outside if you are living in coyote country.

Way said coyotes howl at night to communicate between packs, rally each other, mark out their territory and because they probably enjoy it, “but they do not howl to scare humans or because it is a full moon.”

With a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a master’s from the University of Connecticut and a doctorate from Boston College, Way has conducted two major research programs about eastern coyotes. The first involved trapping and radio-tagging coyotes in two regions, Cape Cod and around Boston, and then releasing them back into the wild so that he could track their movements. The second study involved hand-raising coyotes at Stone Zoo in Stoneham.

From his research, which also involved measuring and taking blood samples from the trapped coyotes, Way was able to establish that the eastern coyote, or coywolf, as he prefers to call it, is not related to the gray wolf but is a product of hybridization between western coyotes and eastern/red wolves.

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