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New Castle Coyote-Control Debate Gets Contentious

Edita Birnkrant
Edita Birnkrant Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- A review process for studying coyote-management measures in New Castle became heated recently when one of two involved groups declined to publicly present its findings.

The group, called the New Castle Coyote Management Task Force, issued a statement -- it was read by Town Administrator Jill Shapiro -- citing the interest of personal safety and what it termed "inflammatory rhetoric" for not participating at a Feb. 10 Town Board meeting.

“Unfortunately, before we even had the chance to present our findings and recommendations, our plan was characterized as a coyote jihad, a draconian killing plan, death maps, a brutal kill plan, misguided and hateful trapping, all before our plan had ever been presented," the group states.

The task force's statement came after a press release was issued by the group Friends of Animals, which is based in New York City, claiming that the town was considering a measure to kill the animals.

The release states, "The Westchester Town of New Castle, New York which consists primarily of the hamlets of Chappaqua and Millwood, is considering the formal adoption of a Draconian coyote killing plan that calls for trapping/killing coyotes considered "habituated.""

The group's description didn't sit well with Supervisor Rob Greenstein, who said it was “based on 100-percent pure speculation.”

Greenstein also took issue with language that he explained came from email and social-media regarding the issue.

Edita Birnkrant, campaign director for the group, defended what it has done in terms of language usage when she spoke at the board meeting.

“We’re an animal-advocacy protection organization. Sometimes you use a little bit dramatic language to get attention for an issue. I don’t apologize for that at all.”

Birnkrant also dismissed the notion that there was a threat to the task force.

“Am I really that scary that they didn’t want to show up and be confronted by me and my crazy pamphlet on how to live with the coyotes?”

The task force subsequently released its report online, which is available here. Its report suggests lethal action against coyotes exhibiting dangerous behavior, meaning attacks on people and pets or demonstrating aggressive behavior that is unprovoked. It also suggests lethal response proactively if coyotes do not respond to hazing, it is a behavioral-modification technique where people make noises and move aggressively to change their behaviors - and if pets and people are "threatened."

The other group, the New Castle Coyote Awareness & Safety Advisory Committee, presented its plan at the meeting. It notes killing is ineffective due to subsequent rebounding populations and only advocates it if a person is attacked unprovoked, if the coyote shows signs of disease such as rabies or if it attacks a pet under a person's control, meaning in their lap, arms or on a short leash.

The committee's report is available here.

The Town Board is expected to meet in March or April to discuss the groups' findings, according to Greenstein.

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