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UPDATED: A New York Times report about how officials on the cramped peninsula of Nahant deal with coyotes reminds Arlington residents about incidents that roiled the town in 2021.

In a Jan. 1 news feature by Jenna Russell, formerly of The Boston Globe, the Times reported that Nahant’s three-member Board of Selectmen had federal sharpshooters track and kill some of the coyotes. That made Nahant the first municipality in Massachusetts to seek expert help through a new state partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

$100 'coyote jackets'

The plan, Russell reported, “has relieved many anxious residents, some of whom now carry whistles and baseball bats on strolls around town, and dress their dogs in $100 'coyote jackets' covered with metal spikes to repel attacks.”

Not unexpectedly, the report says, “Support for the sharpshooting plan is not unanimous. Opponents have argued for a more humane approach, hoisting handmade 'Save The Nahant Coyotes' signs near the causeway into town.”

The report adds that “Massachusetts offers fewer checks on the coyote population than many other places, with its abbreviated hunting season, local rules against discharging firearms and ban on most effective traps, enacted by a ballot referendum in 1996.”

Bishop case, earlier incidents

In Arlington last June at Bishop School playground, police cooperating with two state agencies, responded to a report of a coyote. After consulting with law-enforcement partners, Arlington police put the coyote down, before the noon recess.

This action took place months after four cases of coyote attacks in 2021, events that caused turmoil in the Turkey Hill neighborhood and led to establishing Coyotes of Arlngton, a Facebook group.

The Times story reports: "Wildlife experts say most coyote aggression toward humans stems from people providing the animals with food, which can drastically alter their behavior. In Arlington, a Boston suburb that saw three non-fatal coyote attacks on children in 2021, police later determined that a resident had been feeding a coyote. Officers killed the animal, and the town has had no problems since, a spokesman said."

Clarification of incidents

Asked to confirm this account Jan. 3, Capt. Richard Flynn, community-services commander and public-information officer for town police, responded that he spoke recently to a Times reporter who was working on a piece regarding coyotes.

“I can confirm that I provided her with information regarding the attacks on children in the fall of 2021 and that the APD euthanized a coyote in a neighborhood near the Bishop School on June 3, 2022.

“That animal was believed to have been habituated after being repeatedly feed by a resident.” He wrote that he made no connection that the coyote in June was the same animal responsible for the 2021 attacks.”

State official comments

Dave Wattles of the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, the lead biologist in the state in such matters, responded Jan. 4 to a request for comment.

The black bear and furbearer biologist wrote that the Times report accurately described the impact in Nahant – making it the first municipality in the Bay State to seek the expert help through a new state partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture..

“It is due to the lack of other effective legal methods of removing coyotes that pose a public-safety threat in developed areas that led us to investigate the option of using USDA Wildlife Services for this work.

“The situation [in 2021] in Arlington is one of those situations that lead to this point. Three children were bitten, clearly the coyotes posed a public safety threat and options for their removal were very limited. We only established the agreement with Wildlife Services this summer, and Nahant was one of the first towns we provided the option to.”

Asked who killed the coyote at Bishop last June, he noted that “it was a local police officer. We worked directly with the police department and recommended that that animal be removed. Limitations on MA Environmental Police ability to respond and remove the animal led police to carry out the dispatching themselves.”


June 8, 2022: Coyote near Bishop spurs warning about feeding wildlife

 

Oct. 8, 2021: Coyote attacks dog in fourth case since August 

This news summary based on information from The New York Times and YourArlington was published Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2022. It was updated the same day to add comments from a state wildlife official.