NAHANT, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Officials in Nahant, Mass. have voted to sign an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services to tackle their ever-expanding coyote problem. Nahant is the first community in the state to hire USDA Wildlife services to help dispatch 'habituated coyotes.'
It all began earlier this year after residents signed a petition urging town officials, animal control officers, and law enforcement to address the growing coyote overpopulation. Residents said the wild animals had been stalking and attacking local pets and surrounding residents while walking their dogs.
"The Town of Nahant, like many other communities, had been dealing with habituated coyotes with multiple documented cases of aggressive behavior toward residents," Board Chairman Gene Canty said. "Mass Wildlife has authorized our community to dispatch the problem coyotes but our legal options of ways to do that limited, ineffective and not practical."
After in-depth discussions with wildlife management expert Dave Wattles of Mass Wildlife and educational community outreach programs to help educate residents on ways to prevent conflicts with coyotes, the decision was made to bring in the USDA.
"Mass Wildlife officials have taught us that the focus of our response to an increased population of coyotes in our Town has to be education," said Selectman Josh Antrim. "However, when coyotes become habituated and present a major significant public risk, we have to consider all legal means to eliminate that risk."
The USDA Wildlife services will bring in trained rifle experts who use the latest technologies available for carrying out a safe and effective operation. Using a special permit from Mass Wildlife, these experts will use night-vision, thermal-imaging scopes and spotlights.
In recent years, coyotes living in the Nahant area have become more dependent on human-associated foods, which leads to the wild animals becoming habituated and exhibit bold and aggressive behavior. In Nahant, officials believe there are more than a dozen coyotes, which is more than what Mass Wildlife considers the norm for a one-square-mile suburban environment.
Currently, the box cage trap is the only legal trap for the wild animals in Massachusetts. The method has only successfully trapped three coyotes over the span of the last decade.
"When a Town is given authority to eliminate habituated animals but can't believe the tools to do so aren't practical, the Town is put in a very difficult position," Town Administrator Antonio Barletta said. "A long-term solution would be to pass legislation allowing human traps and holds that are effective in capturing problem animals. Without a legislative change, communities like Nahant will be put in a position to consider the discharging of firearms to eliminate problem animals, creating one risk in an effort to eliminate another."
WBZ's James Rojas (@JamesRojasNews) reports