Multiple coyote sightings in New London have put residents there on edge. They report coyotes following them on daytime walks with family pets and small children, showing no apparent fear of humans.
At least one dog has been killed by a coyote this spring.
Is this unusual behavior for coyotes? Is this a sign that the coyote population is growing in the state?
WNPR talked with Chris Vann, a wildlife biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, about coyotes in Connecticut.
WNPR's Ray Hardman: Why is there such a surge in coyote activity in New London, and what would account for their brazen attitude with humans?
Chris Vann: There have been coyotes in New London for years. It's not unusual for certain species. Coyotes to learn to live and adapt amongst people. It happens with raccoons, and we're seeing a little bit of that with bears.
So for coyotes to adapt to living in a highly populated area is nothing unusual.
But in New London, the coyotes are becoming unusually habituated, showing no fear of humans, and attacking dogs as they are being walked by their owners. This kind of behavior is part of coyote biology, and unfortunately can lead to a lot of conflicts and a lot of safety issues.
Are there factors at play that can be attributed to the situation in New London?
That's hard to say. They are intelligent and quite capable survivors. They are able to feed on a variety of food sources.
One of the reasons why coyotes establish themselves in these locations is they do find it suitable. They find enough food, and safety, and security. In a city environment, they are not being pursued by farmers or hunters, so they feel safe.
Now people could take measures to harass and haze coyotes to make them stay farther away. If they don't, coyotes will continue to seek out these areas, and this kind of behavior will continue.
Is there more coyote activity this time of year?
Absolutely. Coyotes typically breed in February, followed by whelping in early April, so the activity level is very high for a pair of coyotes with a den with pups. We are at the time of year when coyotes are hyper-protective around their den sites.
Dog walkers need to be extremely careful if there is a den. Coyotes will attack dogs with their owners if they are encroaching on their den.
What are the most effective ways to harass coyotes off your property?
Scaring coyotes to try and disperse them from your yard requires loud noise and aggressive behavior. It may sound barbaric, but I tell people to run out of your house, chase the coyote and throw sticks and stones at it. Now I've heard of different techniques using air horns, or whistles, or shaking a can filled with coins. That may work to a degree, but that's not what I'd call intense, organized hazing. A high level of aggressive hazing may involve chasing coyotes with rubber bullets or rubber buckshot and try to aversively condition coyotes with a very aggressive harassment program that may have to be repeated again and again and again.
Are coyote populations growing in Connecticut?
The population is slowly expanding in certain areas, but coyote complaints over the last two years is actually down.
We used to receive about 250 or so coyote complaints a year. We're down to about 160 complaints.
So I think people are trying to learn to tolerate some coyote activity, hopefully not being indifferent or ignorant to the problems of coyotes. The severity of the complaints hasn't changed, however. We still see 20 to 30 dogs a year killed by coyotes.