May 8, 2019 by Carol Britton Meyer
Numerous coyote sightings in unsettling numbers and related incidents in different parts of town have been reported on social media, to Animal Control Officer Leslie Badger, through the 911 emergency dispatch center, and most recently to the Selectmen, who put the issue on the agenda after noticing social media posts calling for action in addressing what some residents say has become a crisis.
“We’re concerned about the volume and aggression of turkeys and the increased presence of coyotes, which changes the way we use our yards and also affects our pets and kids,” Selectmen Chair Karen Johnson said to the several concerned citizens attending the meeting. The discussion lasted for more than an hour and a half.
Baker Hill, Conservatory Park, Golf View Drive, and other residents shared their experiences with coyotes, calling for immediate action in addressing what they consider to be a very dangerous situation that is keeping them inside their homes and causing fear in their children.
One incident involved a neighbor chasing away a coyote with a lacrosse stick. Others are using air horns and banging pots and pans to scare them away from their yards. Another resident reported incidents on the South Shore Country Club golf course while walking his dog, including being approached by a snarling coyote.
Golf View Drive resident Mark Tryder, who reported a “very aggressive” coyote in his neighborhood last Sunday to the police, suggested an in-depth wildlife study as one of the possible next steps.
A couple of residents referred to a recent attack on a girl in another neighborhood, but whether the attack was by a coyote has not been confirmed and the Hingham Police are not commenting on the situation.
In the meantime, Badger advises, “Be proactive, and work with your neighbors to combat the situation” — and also report every incident so the town will have data to present to the state agencies who have the say about how to deal with intrusive coyotes, many of whom have been displaced by increasing development not only in Hingham but also in neighboring towns. “It’s not just a Hingham problem,” she said. “We’re taking this situation very seriously.”
A big issue is that there are specific laws relating to trapping and also to shooting coyotes in the most extreme situations, thereby tying the hands of local animal control officers in how they handle the overall situation and individual incidents. Badger is engaged in a public education effort and has already worked with one neighborhood to create a neighborhood watch type of system and can help other residents do the same as well as take a walk through their yards to help them identify situations that could attract coyotes. Other neighbors keep each other apprised of coyote sitings near their homes via email.
Attractions to coyotes include piles of brush, chickens and waterfowl, rabbit hutches, pets and baby farm animals living outside who can’t protect themselves, compost piles containing other than plants and leaves — including fruits and veggies — bird feeders, drip pans on, and scraps of food from, grilles, food left in or around a fire pit — cooked or uncooked, food left outdoors overnight or during the day unattended from a barbecue or outside event, dog or cat waste/urine scent built up in an area, dogs or cats being fed outside, bones dogs chew on, trash/trash cans/dumpsters/food wrappers with food residue or half-eaten food left inside the wrapper or in a container on the ground. All of these attract coyotes and other wildlife.
“These are some of the food sources or scents coyotes seek out to find easy fast food in our yards instead of going deeper into the woods to hunt for food,” Badger said. “If you have any of these items in your yard we’re not saying you can’t have them, but be sure to secure, clean up after daily, or remove them to a safe location or inside. When a coyote smells a juicy steak he will come up to a deck or patio in search of food.” The same is true of marshmallows or burned or half-eaten hotdogs left in a grille or fire pit.
Clear your yards
Police Chief Glenn Olsson said brush piles and overgrown yards provide a hiding place for coyotes. “Keep your yards open because coyotes don’t like to be exposed. They feel vulnerable,” he said. “You should also close off the gaps under decks and patios, which make a great place for coyotes, fisher cats, raccoons, skunks, and other animals to live.”
Children and pets should not be left unattended, and dogs should be on a leash when walked. When siting or encountering a coyote, the advice from the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife is to keep coyotes wild by scaring or threatening them when in your yard with loud noises, bright lights, or water sprayed from a hose.”
That said, some of the residents at the meeting said efforts along those lines often aren’t effective. Golf View resident Lauren Gargan said the state needs to get involved because of the seriousness of the situation. “We pay a premium for our homes and we can’t let our kids go outside,” she said.
Spring Street resident Mark Cullings suggested also gathering information from other towns as well as Hingham residents before approaching the state, for a bigger impact. “We’re not an island,” he said. “The state is us.”
More information about coyotes and what to do to help make your home less-attractive to them is available through Badger, on the Town of Hingham website, hingham-ma.gov under the Animal Control link — including a Harbor Media-produced presentation by Badger entitled, “Living with Coyotes” — and in the Board of Health office at Town Hall.
Coyote issues should be reported directly to the 911 dispatch center, Olsson said.
He offered some advice before the discussion ended. “Don’t turn your back on a coyote if you see one. Retreat from it, walking backwards while yelling,” he said.
The Selectmen, Olsson, and Badger hope to collect data from concerned residents to present to the state with the hope of coming up with some kind of more proactive solution. “This will take some time,” Olsson said.
The Anchor will continue to follow this issue and inform the community of related updates.