Many Auburn residents have seen coyotes, and many have heard their identifying howls at night. For some, these sights and sounds generate curiosity. For others, it is pure fear.
This exact mix was in the audience at the Auburn Public Library for last Thursday’s Coyote presentation by John Maguranis, the Massachusetts Representative of Project Coyote. The goal of Project Coyote is “Promoting coexistence between people & wildlife through education, science, and advocacy.”
Maguranis served 20 years in the U.S. Army as a vet tech and recently retired from the Town of Belmont where he was the Animal Control Officer. His encounters with coyotes go back many years, and he loves spreading facts about the species.
The origin of the Eastern Coyote is believed to have started when western coyotes crossbred with wolves to make a coywolf. The coywolf then bred with dogs to make the coyotes we have today. Despite their appearance, adults weigh only 30-40 pounds, about the same as many domestic dogs but larger than their western counterparts.
Coyotes are opportunistic omnivores who will eat anything from mice to deer and from fruit to garbage. They are survivors and are in all mainland cities and towns in the Commonwealth. Maguranis told the audience that if the end of the world came, there would be two animals left, cockroaches and coyotes.
Peoples’ fears are often based on misunderstanding since wild animals fear humans more than humans fear wild animals. Marguranis suggests hazing coyotes that come near human property by acting bigger than them, making noise and taking away the incentives that keep them coming around, mainly food.
Unlike wolves and wild dogs, coyotes travel in small family groups rather than packs. The typical family has only the adult male and female who mate for life, but there could also be pups and an occasional one-year-old from last year’s litter.
According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, only four people in this state have been attacked by coyotes since they started to appear in the 1950’s and at least two were rabid. Conversely, the CDC reports that 4.5 million Americans are bitten by domestic dogs annually.
The basics of coyote avoidance include: Do not feed coyotes; Remove attractants by feeding pets indoors and keeping yards clean; Supervise pets and keep dogs on a leash during walks; Keep cats indoors (which also has the benefit of protecting songbirds); Keep coyotes wary by acting big and making noise; Use your outdoor spaces for play and recreation since wild animals avoid people; and Appreciate coyotes at a distance.
When Maguranis unveiled a stuffed coyote during his talk, there was a slight gasp from the audience. The animal was two when it died accidentally, and it weighed just over 30 pounds when alive. Seeing this magnificent creature up close was a treat that made the evening special.
Not all fears were calmed, but the audience certainly saw a softer side of this durable species.