It’s one thing to see them in the wild, but this winter, a growing number of Massachusetts residents are reporting seeing coyotes in their backyards and driveways. The surge in residential sightings is worrying homeowners and pet owners, and experts are offering advice on how to live with the animals.
Hyde Park’s Chris Eigsti was working from home last week when he noticed a coyote wandering through his garden.
“From the size, at first I thought it was a wolf. It was the biggest I’ve ever seen in the neighborhood,” Eigsti said.
Eigsti took photos and video of the animal to confirm it was a coyote, and he’s not the only one to have had an encounter. His neighbor began letting his dog out at different times after seeing coyotes in broad daylight.
“At night I let the dog out, but we have a fenced yard and I take care of her. A coyote came right into our driveway,” Faris said.
The uninvited guests seem to feel at home in many residential areas. They have been found in every single city and town in Massachusetts except the islands, and many locations are close to peak density.
Photos and videos have surfaced on social media this winter, showing the animals roaming everywhere from backyards in Ashland to cobbled pathways in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.
Dave Wattles, MassWildlife’s state coyote expert, said there wasn’t necessarily a population explosion, but it was peak mating season for coyotes. He also said since there are no leaves on the trees, people would notice them more often.
“Each year in January and February we see a peak in coyote activity and aggression, particularly against large and medium-sized dogs,” Wattles said.
It’s still rare for a coyote to attack a person. In Massachusetts, only two dozen people have ever reported being bitten by a coyote, and Wattles said most of them attempted to feed the animal.
All efforts to kill the coyote population have been unsuccessful. Hunters have no interest in coyotes and the population replenishes itself so quickly, experts said it wouldn’t make a difference.
Instead, Wattles suggests sealing up all litter, removing all food like bird feeders, and keeping your dog on a leash. He said if you encounter one, the best thing to do is scare the coyote away from people and back into its natural habitat.
“Be aggressive towards them. Go out and chase them out of the yard. Make loud noises. It seems strange, but they’ll run away if you run out there,” Wattles said.