A New England Town Invaded by Coyotes Calls in the Sharpshooters

No humans have been harmed by Nahant’s coyotes, estimated to number about a dozen. But after the disappearances of more than two dozen pets in roughly two years — and reports of three brazen, fatal attacks this year on leashed dogs accompanied by their owners — the town is ever more on edge. Its isolated geography — Nahant is essentially an island connected to the mainland by a narrow, 1.5-mile causeway — contributes to the sense of menace felt by some residents.

Compact, densely populated and surrounded by water, it is a hard place for coyotes to leave, and a hard place for them to remain mostly invisible to humans, as they often do in cities and more sprawling suburbs, wildlife experts said.

Wildlife experts say most coyote aggression toward humans stems from people providing the animals with food, which can drastically alter their behavior. In Arlington, a Boston suburb that saw three non-fatal coyote attacks on children in 2021, police later determined that a resident had been feeding a coyote. Officers killed the animal, and the town has had no problems since, a spokesman said.

Stanley Gehrt, at the Chicago-based Urban Coyote Research Project, has studied coyotes for decades, tracking hundreds of them to learn how they live. He acknowledges that removing coyotes may be appropriate in some situations, but also reminds nervous suburbanites about the coyote’s role in a healthy ecosystem. Yea Coyotes can help control populations of rodents, rabbits and Canada geese, Mr. Gehrt said; they also prey on white-tailed deer, which cause car accidents and endanger drivers.

Earlier this month, Nahant’s three-member Board of Selectmen voted to enlist federal sharpshooters to track and kill some of the coyotes,making Nahant the first municipality in Massachusetts to seek the expert help through a new state partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Support for the sharpshooting plan is not unanimous. Opponents have argued for a more humane approach, hoisting handmade “Save The Nahant Coyotes” signs near the causeway into town.

Francene Amari-Faulkner, a resident who has organized protests against the plan, said false claims and exaggeration have fueled hysteria and a rush to drastic measures. “If the town brings in sharpshooters, it’s going to be a bloodbath,” she said, “because then other towns will say, ‘We can do that too.’”


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