A Wellesley coyote update

A Swellesley Report reader recently shared photos with us of a coyote seen at night in their neighborhood across Rte. 9 from Morses Pond.

“We have spotted coyotes along the trail near our circle last year and the trail along Morse Pond last year… I’ve never seen the coyotes this close to the houses. Would the town do something about the coyotes?” the reader asked.

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While coyote sightings in Wellesley are common (I’ll never forget the big 1 I saw at Town Hall a few years back mid-day), I figured it would be a good idea to check in with Animal Control Officer Jenny Smith to get the latest on coyotes in town.

“This time of year is very common for other police departments, animal control officers, and the environmental police to get an increase of calls on coyotes sightings. Late January through March is the mating season for coyotes and they become more active during this time. The female coyote’s gestation period is only 63 days,” Smith says.

Smith’s advice to residents when they see coyotes is to “haze” them—a term used by the Massachusetts Environmental Police. “While coyotes and other wild animals are naturally afraid of people, this fear can disappear over time when animals spend a lot of time around people or when they are frequently fed by people. Whenever you see a coyote in your yard, you should aggressively haze it by physically chasing it out of the yard, spraying it with a hose, making loud noises by banging pots and pans or blowing an air horn, and throwing small objects like a tennis ball with the intent to frighten not injure. Repeated hazing helps teach coyotes they are not welcome in your yard, similar to how coyotes naturally chase other coyotes out of their own territories. The more people in a community that haze coyotes, the more effective it will be in making them avoid people.”

Negative encounters, including coyote attacks on people, are rare, she says.

Coyotes are “opportunistic feeders,” Smith says. They’ll eat small animals, insects, fruits, garbage, pet food, compost, and more. Bird feeders and suet can attract coyotes, which will go for both the bird food and the rodents that such food can attract.

“Coyotes that become dependent on these supplemental foods can become habituated, act tame, and exhibit bold behavior toward people,” Smith says.

The animal control officer recommends that dogs always be supervised on a leash, especially during the coyote breeding season. “Coyotes are territorial animals that live in family groups known as packs. During the breeding season, they become very active in marking and defending their territories to protect their pack from other coyotes and ensure they can successfully raise pups in the spring. Unfortunately, coyotes can’t distinguish your pet from an intruding coyote, and will treat the presence of dogs in their territories as a threat. During the breeding season, coyotes can become more aggressive toward large-breed dogs. Smaller dogs and cats are viewed as prey items by coyotes at any time of the year.”

More resources from the state’s Mass.gov website:

We always appreciate readers sharing animal photos from Wellesley with us at theswellesleyreport@gmail.com. Just don’t be doing the old Yellowstone bison photo thing…