Below you will find the Town’s Coyote Response Plan which will help guide residents on what to do when they see a coyote, come in contact with a coyote or when a pet or human is attacked. We urge residents to follow this guidance to understand when and how to report coyote behavior, the actions you should take and who to report the specific encounter to.
On Wednesday, December 21, 2022, at a regularly scheduled Board of Selectmen meeting, the Selectmen, the Town Administrator, and Dave Wattles of Mass Wildlife discussed recent aggressive behaviors towards leashed pets in the direct presence of a human and how this has led to problem animal management decisions. To watch the video on this discussion please click the link to the right.
On Wednesday July 6, 2022 we hosted a virtual meeting with Dave Wattles who is a representative from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. If you would like to watch the video recording of that meeting you can click the link to the right. This presentation is meant to educate the public on the coyote population, their behavior and how we can safely co-exist with them.
Please click on the fact sheet below for common facts and information on Coyotes, how to safely co-exist with them, their behavior, what to do if you encounter one, effective ways to prevent conflict and more.
To find a Problem Control Agent (PAC) you can click the link below: If you have a wildlife problem that you can’t solve yourself, a PAC agent may be able to help. PAC agents are licensed individuals that act on your behalf to solve wildlife problems. PAC agents charge for their services. PAC agents are different from municipal Animal Control Officers, who mainly deal with domestic animal issues.
Information provided to Nahant from Mass Wildlife
There are many reasons why Nahant cannot control the coyote population.
According to M.G.L. Ch. 131 Sec. 58, you cannot hunt within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling or within 150 feet of a paved road. This essentially means there is no hunting in Nahant. Additionally, there is a no discharge bylaw in Nahant. With hunting being the main means of regulating wildlife populations, and it not being allowed in Nahant, our options are significantly limited. Also, due to the inherent biology of coyotes, hunting and trapping, even if virtually unlimited does very little to control coyote numbers
The traps effective to catch coyotes, foothold traps and snares or cable restraints, were made illegal by a ballot referendum, Question 1, in 1996. This means that by law the only legal trap to use is a large box trap. Coyotes are very reluctant to enter box traps. Traps must be baited open for months to habituate a coyote to entering. A coyote may not ever be trapped, but even if one is all other coyotes in the area have been attracted to the bait in the trap and have been fed. This has the potential to make any problems worse without ever resolving an issue. That being said, it is legal to use these traps, either during the regulated season Nov 1 to Nov 30 or through a PAC agent (Problem Animal Control). However, there is virtually no trapping of coyotes in Massachusetts as a result of these restrictions.
Relocating coyotes is not an option. Relocating an animal would only move that problem somewhere else in the state. Mass Wildlife cannot prioritize people in one location over another. Additionally, it would be virtually impossible to achieve. See above for trapping. The other means of capture would be to dart and immobilize. To effectively dart a coyote, one would need to be within 15 yards of it, have it standing still in a location you can safely shoot a dart projector. This circumstance is extremely rare.
Lethal Removal of a Problem Animal
It is illegal to discharge a firearm in Nahant. See above for hunting. This applies to everyone except law enforcement. Mass Wildlife employees and PAC agents cannot discharge a firearm in Nahant.
Local, state, and the Environmental Police are the only ones who could legally dispatch a coyote in Nahant. There may be only 4 Environmental Police officers covering the dozen or more towns around Nahant, not all working at the same time. They could come top Nahant multiple times and never see a coyote or if they did see one by chance, it may not be safe to dispatch it where encountered. It can take them an hour or more to respond to an immediate call regarding a coyote incident. Essentially NPD is the best option for an immediate threat.
Even if it was possible to remove an individual coyote or two, eliminating coyotes anywhere, even an isolated location like Nahant is virtually impossible. This is why the public is encouraged to change their behaviors to limit bold behavior by coyotes and prevent conflict.
There are three main components to preventing conflict with coyotes, removing all human-associated food sources, aggressively hazing coyotes, and protecting pets.
1. Human Associated Foods
Food around our homes, neighborhoods, and businesses is what attracts coyotes to these areas. It essentially trains coyotes and other wildlife to come around our homes to look for food, which increases the chances of encounters with people and negative encounters with pets. It also supplements natural foods and allows coyotes to exist at higher densities than they’d be able to otherwise. Removing and securing foods around our homes and businesses is essential. Human associated foods are bird feeders (both for the food reward and the animals they attract (chipmunks, squirrels, and other rodents that coyotes eat), garbage (both household and dumpsters), unsecured compost, fruit trees with fallen fruit, pets being fed outside, and people feeding strays. All these foods need to be removed. If they are, it removes the attractant from our homes and decreases the food supplementing the coyotes diet.
Most importantly no one should ever intentionally feed coyotes. People all over Massachusetts intentionally feed wildlife including coyotes and this creates a potentially dangerous situation. Coyotes that are fed by people start to associate people with food. This can cause them to lose their fear of people and to approach people to look for food and develop other bold behaviors. Despite still being very rare events, most of the recent bites of humans in Massachusetts have occurred in places where we can confirm someone was intentionally feeding coyotes prior to the incident. Almost invariably it is not the person feeding that is bitten, but someone else in the community. Never intentionally feed wildlife.
Coyotes and other wildlife are naturally afraid of people. However, over time that fear can disappear with greater levels of positive or neutral interaction with people. Coyotes in urban and suburban areas spend their entire lives close to people. They see people on a daily basis, near homes, near cars and other parts of modern society. As a result, the sights and sounds of modern developed areas become familiar to them. In many instances if a person encounters a coyote the person runs away, or jumps in a car, quickly ducks inside. These are submissive behaviors that teach coyotes that they are the dominant part of the relationship with people. This type of dominance behavior and communication is how coyotes communicate with each other, with dominant animals ruling the roost. As a result of this, coyotes who experience these behaviors over and over can develop bolder behaviors. To flip the switch and reverse and prevent this, we need people to act aggressively towards coyotes.
Hazing coyotes is designed to teach them that they are not welcome and make them fearful and cautious around people. Every time someone sees a coyote they should attempt to haze the animal. If a coyote is in your yard, aggressively chase it away, run at the coyote, waving your arms, yelling and screaming or making other loud noises (banging pots and pans, blowing an airhorn, etc.) and chase it out of the yard. You can spray a hose, throw small objects like a tennis ball, or very small stones (it is important to note the intent is to scare it not injure it, so fine gravel and pebbles, not large stones) at the coyote. Anything you can think of to scare it and drive it away. It is important to note that yelling from a distance can be counterproductive.
Hazing should be done every time a coyotes is seen and by as many people as possible. The more people in the community or an area that haze, the more effective it will be. Over time, the coyotes that were comfortable around people will become less so.
The greatest source of conflict with coyotes is definitely with pets. Coyote do attack pets regularly in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, coyotes do not distinguish between our pets and wild animals they encounter. To them the pets are just another animal in the environment, some are seen as prey and others as competitors. Coyotes are a territorial animal, a coyote family group defends a territory against other coyote families and individual coyotes. They interpret medium and large size dogs in their territories as threats, particularly during the winter mating season (Jan-March) and when they have pups in the den (April-June).
To protect our pets, cats should be kept inside and dogs should be supervised at all times. Just like cats eat mice, birds and other animals when outside, there are animals larger than them that will eat or kill them if left outside. The only way to protect cats is to keep them inside. Dogs should be leashed and directly supervised at all times. Dogs that are off leash or alone in a backyard are far more likely to be attacked by a coyote. It is the person on the other end of the leash that will prevent a coyote from attacking a dog. This is linked to the hazing above, if coyotes are regularly hazed by people, coyotes will be less willing to approach or attack a dog on a leash.
People often express fear of walking dogs or being outside if there have been coyote incidents in town or sightings. It is important to keep in mind that people are doing these things every day in Massachusetts with relatively few incidents occurring with coyotes, despite coyotes living everywhere in the state, including Boston. Carrying a walking stick can be helpful and can be used to frighten a coyote off or in an extreme situation, it can be used to fend off an aggressive coyote. A person can also carry a dog friendly spray repellent (citronella) or pepper spray and use it to scare away a coyote. These products have been design to be easily carried or stashed on a belt and provide a good deterrent/defense should a coyote be encountered.
For more information regarding state laws surrounding Coyote’s and contact information for Mass Wildlife please click the link below.
Below is a map of hot spot areas that have been identified to the Town as areas where coyotes in a group have been observed. Please know that coyotes can travel quickly and far every day so they will not only be seen in these areas. However, when in these areas you should be especially prepared to haze the animal if you encounter it and call Nahant Police Department at (781) 581-1212 only if the coyoted is being aggressive towards you or your leashed pet.