Westerly residents concerned about growing coyote population

(WJAR)

Coyotes are well established in many areas of Rhode Island and without any natural enemies, their numbers, although not statistically proven, seem to be growing.

Some Westerly residents have been voicing concerns, claiming they've seen an increase in coyote sightings and attacks on pets during the last several months.

They are even taking action, claiming they no longer let their pets out at night, and if they do, they're armed with a weapon.

"I said to myself, ‘This is nuts. I'm in my neighborhood and I'm afraid to go out at night because of my dog being attacked and I'm carrying a bat,’" said Rob Saglio, a long-time Westerly resident.

Saglio lives along Setting Sun Drive and claims his neighbors have had run-in with coyotes while walking their pets.

"Not too long ago, one of my neighbors was looking out of their window and told me they assumed my neighbor Barbara had two dogs because she had one dog on a leash in front of her and a dog in back of her without realizing it was a coyote," said Saglio. "The coyote was stalking her and the coyote ran around her and attacked the dog on the leash."

Just last weekend, Saglio said his friend was walking his dog with his 15-year-old son at the Avondale Farm Preserve when he found himself surrounded by a pack of coyotes.

"He was so freaked out he had to call his neighbor to come pick him up in a car,” Saglio said.

Situations like those prompted him to create the "Westerly Coyote Report" Facebook page. In roughly four weeks, it already has more than 400 members.

Members constantly post pictures and videos of sightings to keep others alert.

Through the page, as well as from speaking with Westerly's Animal Control Officer Arthur Smith, Saglio believes there are at least nine coyote dens in Westerly.

"We discovered by having 400 pairs of eyes in the town of Westerly that we have a much bigger problem than anybody ever thought," said Saglio.

Town officials see the problem, too.

The Town Council passed an ordinance Monday night to issue hefty fines people who feed coyotes.

The Department of Environmental Management said a coyote snatched and mauled a dog in Westerly along Kimball Avenue at the end of August.

Environmental police found a man nearby who had been feeding them and he was issued a ticket.

Michael Healey, who is the spokesperson for DEM, said the big problem isn't the number of coyotes but people intentionally feeding them. He said it makes them bold and overly comfortable around people, which causes their behavior patterns to change, as well as their movement patterns.

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