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Wednesday, December 13 News

Veterinarians: Coyote trapping not the solution

WESTPORT — Local veterinarians agree the area has a coyote problem and methods other than trapping the wild animals are the most effective and safest way to suppress them.

Melissa Shapiro, a veterinarian at Visiting Vet Service in Westport, recently conducted an education campaign and visited the town veterinary clinics and Norwalk Veterinary Hospital to hand out flyers for clients on nonlethal solutions for coyote conflicts.

The flier tells pet owners to refrain from leaving out food and garbage. It stresses not leaving pets out in the yard unattended, and points out various coyote hazing techniques, such as the use of noisemakers and yelling and waving one’s arms.

“All vets I spoke to were very concerned about the safety of their patients, and they were happy to have the handouts and were willing to pass them on to their clients,” Shapiro said.

When Shapiro meets with clients, she gives them advice on how to protect their pets from coyotes and other predators.

“People need to either supervise their dogs or put up a fence and haze the coyotes,” she said.

In response to an increase in coyote sightings and attacks, Art Buckman filed a petition to allow residents to hire a nuisance wildlife control operator for the trapping and removal of coyotes using a leg trap. Whether trapping would be an effective solution for the town has been debated at length by Representative Town Meeting committees (where the three committees decided not to recommend trapping be allowed) and is set to be heard by the full RTM in May.

In neighboring Weston, there have been five confirmed coyote attacks since Jan. 1, according to Mark Harper, the town’s wildlife control officer.

On April 7, there were two recorded coyote attacks within the span of four hours. The first happened when a woman let her two dogs out (one under 40 pounds and one over) and heard screaming outside. When she emerged from her house, she found the smaller dog in a coyote’s mouth. When she hazed the coyote, it charged at her, but was stopped by her two dogs. After the dogs attacked the coyote, it ran away. Hours later, a woman witnessed her dog (over 40 pounds) being attacked by a coyote.

“I think it’s the coyotes are just looking for trouble up here and have become too aggressive,” Harper said.

Weston allows trapping, and Harper said it is a proper solution to the issue.

“Trapping totally is a legitimate solution, but with the new padded leg holds, it’s much more humane because the trap jaw is actually padded, so it’s much more humane,” he said.

Harper said the traps which use pads and spring-loaded chains have not caused any broken legs or dislocations.

Since the start of the year, in Westport, there have been 23 coyote sightings, three unconfirmed coyote attacks on pets and two pet deaths resulting from unconfirmed coyote attacks, according to Westport animal control.

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“You’re not going to shoot them, kill them, trap them out of existence,” said Christian Benyei, veterinarian at Schulhof Animal Hospital.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, research suggests when coyote populations are aggressively controlled, i.e., through trapping or hunting, the surviving coyotes end up breeding at earlier ages, having larger litters and experiencing a higher survival rate.

David Santisi, a veterinarian at Winslow Park Animal Hospital, is skeptical trapping would make a significant difference. “To me, the issue is it’s going to be very hard to control the coyote population. We can have some impact possibly with trapping, but I don’t see that as being a realistic long-term solution to the problem that we have.”

The veterinarians are concerned about the harmful effects of trapping on both intended and unintended targets.

“I don’t know how they would isolate the traps, but if people don’t contain their dogs entirely, I’m sure inadvertently you’re going to catch other people’s animals, so I just think it’s a bad idea,” Benyei said.

The idea of coyotes and other animals caught in leg traps is a tough one for veterinarians.

“What is going to happen to that coyote or racoon that gets trapped? The thought of having the wrong animal in that trap is horrible,” Shapiro said. “Trapping is a very much tamer way to describe what they’re doing. They’re killing animals. Once it’s trapped, it’s going to be killed. How are you going to kill the animals?”

In an interview this month, Buckman said if trapping were to happen in a backyard, neighbors would be informed and signs would be posted to warn the public.

@chrismmarquette; cmarquette@bcnnew.com

 

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