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Groups Offer Advice For Dealing With Wild Critters In Westchester

Coyote management has become a significant topic in Westchester.
Coyote management has become a significant topic in Westchester. Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The Hudson Valley is home to numerous wild animals. However, sightings of carnivorous inhabitants, such as coyotes, mountain lions and bobcats, get extensive media coverage.

One notable case is in Chappaqua, where there has been concern for the safety of pets and people. There, the Town of New Castle established two committees to review and suggest coyote management practices. Each group has voiced support for further education of residents. They also note that people should not feed coyotes, either intentionally or unintentionally, and that attacks on people are rare. They each advocate promoting awareness of "hazing," are practice where people make noise and aggressive movement to scare off coyotes.

Where the group's differ, however, concerns when it is appropriate to kill coyotes.

One group, the New Castle Coyote Awareness & Safety Advisory Committee, argues that killing is ineffective because packs of coyotes will breed, with some even doing so sooner, and replacing the dead members.

The group recommends killing only when coyotes attack people unprovoked, when they attack pets under a person's "direct control," such as on a short leash or in their arms, or when they show signs of a serious disease such as rabies. The group also supports having the town enact an ordinance to require notification for neighbors when trapping will be done.

The other group, the New Castle Coyote Management Task Force, recommends more liberal exercise of killing. This includes proactive use if there is a threat deemed to be towards pets or people. The recommendation does not differentiate in terms of which types of pet attacks would justify killing.

The different findings sparked controversy in town last month, with task force members refusing to present their findings at a Town Board meeting for fear of personal safety. This came after a press release from a group called Friends of Animals, which contended that New Castle was considering a "Draconian coyote killing plan that calls for trapping/killing coyotes considered "habituated.""

The board has yet to decide which recommendations to adopt. The group's reports are here and here.

Meanwhile, the organization Wild Suburbia , which has ties to Mianus River Gorge, tracks sightings of coyotes, foxes, Fishers, Bobcats and bears. The group also warns against leaving out potential animal food, such as bird seed and garbage, along with not having pets or small children unsupervised.

Wild Suburbia notes that most of the carnivores it studid eat rodents like mice or chipmunks.

"Bobcats are pretty strict carnivores, but bears and coyotes are more than happy to eat almost anything, including vegetable matter and garbage," a post on the group's site states. "Thus, you should also keep your compost piles safe and secure."

The group also notes relative risk when it comes to the carnivore critters and people.

"For many cultural and, maybe, instinctual reasons, carnivores set off our psychological radar more than other, much more significant and prevalent risks that we have learned to live with and/or ignore."

Wild Suburbia's carnivore sighting maps are available here.

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