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Coyote sightings spur pet safety warning

YORK, Maine — They’ll leave you alone if you leave them alone. Your cat or small dog, however, is an entirely different matter — especially now, at the end of a long, hard winter.

In the past few weeks, there have been several coyote sightings in York, and animal control officer Tom Porter says that’s no surprise.

“There’s plenty around, all over York,” said Porter, adding that there have been reports right in the center of York Village, particularly on open tracts of wooded land behind First Parish Church and off of Woodbridge Road. “But they can be anywhere.”

Porter said these are well established groups who regularly make their homes in and around the town. And wildlife biologist Scott Lindsay with Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said they’re not just in York.

“I’ve just been to Portland to talk with people there, because they’ve been seen within the city limits,” said Lindsay. And Portland’s not alone — the city of Chicago just started a trapping program, he said.

Coyotes are so ubiquitous because they’re so “well adapted,” said Lindsay. “They’ll eat just about anything — deer, squirrels, birds, garbage, cats, small dogs. And many of them are acclimated to people. That gives them the advantage over other wildlife like bears.”

And acclimated they have had to become, said Lindsay, as humans particularly in populated southern Maine encroach more and more on their native habitat. He said coyotes typically need a range of 10-12 square miles, but their home range can shrink to as little as one square mile if they need food.

That appears to be the reason they are being seen so much of late, Porter and Lindsay agree. Their food of choice — squirrels and other small mammals — have burrowed under the snow and are not readily available. Compounding this, said Lindsay, this is the breeding season, so there are potentially hungry mothers out there.

“It’s been a hard winter and they’re looking for food, so they can become bolder,” said Porter.

Although not nocturnal, they will tend to come out when it’s quieter, early in the morning and early in the evening, Lindsay said. But daytime doesn’t necessarily bother them, he said.

Both men said people with small dogs would be advised not to leave them outside for any length of time, and people with cats might want to keep them indoors for now, until the snow melts and the coyotes have other sources of food.



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