Elise Able, coyote expert, traveled 3 hours from the Buffalo area to do an hour-long presentation, “Eastern Coyote, Friend or Foe?”, at the American Legion in Liverpool Monday night prior to the Town Board meeting. It was attended by approximately 40-50 people, many of whom were already in favor of identifying non-lethal approaches to the issue of coyotes in the suburban neighborhood of Scottsdale Farms. Town Supervisor, Mark Nicotra was in attendance, and left with a good deal of scientific data to assist him in making an informed decision.
Elise’s Powerpoint presentation was highly informative, quoting such highly –respected experts as Dr. Robert L. Crabtree, President and Founder of Yellowstone Ecosystem Studies, Affiliate Faculty, Biology Department of Montana State University. A quote taken from his website at http://www.yellowstoneresearch.org/crabtree.html says, “Research yields knowledge, and knowledge allows citizens and leaders to make sensible choices.” This is precisely what we hope the information provided to Salina citizens and councilors will bring to the community – sensible choices.
Salina does not, at this point, have a coyote problem in Ms. Able’s viewpoint, but rather a people problem, being created by misinformation coupled with fear. If, however, Salina decides to allow the addressing of this issue by lethal means, they will create an extremely large problem for themselves, in her educated opinion. Even though the three or four families of Scottsdale Circle intend to pay for the sharpshooter to come to their neighborhood, thus not involving taxpayer funds, the potential for future problems may, in fact, necessitate taxpayer involvement.
According to Ms. Able, a normal coyote community consists of an alpha male and alpha female. They raise their cubs, which then “move out” and find their own mates and territory. As this alpha male and female age, they produce fewer cubs per litter, and fewer of those are strong enough to make it until winter. The problem with removal of the alpha male and/or female by any means, whether by shooting, or by trapping and moving them, or by car accident is that this then “releases” the other members of this family to begin breeding. Not only are there more of them, but they are younger, producing more offspring per litter, offspring much more apt to survive. Although counterintuitive, the scientific evidence is that removing these two alpha coyotes, will actually INCREASE the coyote population in the area.
Potential injuries to children are a great concern to the families on Scottsdale Circle. In a list of the top ten causes of such injuries, however, coyotes did not even appear. Number one on the list was dogs and number two was human beings. Also on the list were bees and car accidents. At the subsequent Board meeting, Laurie Turton said, “Everybody who is talking about this is going to have to go home at night and go to sleep knowing that if something happens to a child or adult injured or worse case, dead, they are going to have to understand that this was brought up to them, and they could have done something about it and nothing was done.” Since cars are far more likely to injure or kill a human, does logic say we should ban them? We don’t think so.
A coyote’s preferred diet is small mammals and rodents. It will eat a cat if desperate, but Elise noted that cats are “too much work.” A squirrel or raccoon is much easier to catch. Since raccoons are very high on the list for rabies – coyotes extremely rarely are rabid – the coyotes do us a service by having them for lunch. Medium and large dogs are too much of a challenge for a coyote, although a small dog might be considered prey, which is why it is recommended that they be walked on a non-retractable leash. Humans, even little ones, are NOT on the coyote menu, she emphasized.
Approximately 60 were in attendance at the Board meeting following the informational meeting. The vast majority of those were in favor of learning to coexist with the coyotes. A number of neighbors in the nearby Donlin Drive area were very distressed to learn of the plans of the Scottsdale Circle group to kill the coyotes. Not only do they enjoy the wildlife in their neighborhood, but they strongly object to the discharging of guns near their homes.
Discussion will continue on May 14 at the 6:30 Board meeting. Councilor Jim Magnarelli has proposed holding another informational meeting at the Town Hall prior to that time, in an attempt to reach a consensus.
Elise Able’s website may be found at http://foxwoodrehab.typepad.com/.