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DEM: Coyotes Require Respectful Distance

[CREDIT: Warwick Animal Shelter] Black coyotes spotted at Brushneck Cove this weekend are acting normally, aren't a threat, but do require distance and respect, experts reminded people.

[CREDIT: Warwick Animal Shelter] Black coyotes spotted at Brushneck Cove this weekend are acting normally, aren't a threat, but do require distance and respect, experts reminded people.
[CREDIT: Warwick Animal Shelter] Black coyotes spotted at Brushneck Cove this weekend are acting normally, aren’t a threat, but do require distance and respect, experts reminded people.
UPDATE – April 20: The Warwick Animal Shelter reported on its Facebook page that it has received a call from the owners, who claim the animals are wolf-dog hybrids, and that the animals will be tested.

“More info will be posted as it evolves but PLEASE PLEASE do not try to approach or touch them. Because they are hybrids if they bite someone they will need to be euthanized. Also, do not feed them because this will make it difficult for them to be captured,” Warwick Animal Shelter announced on their Facebook Page April 20.

Warwick Animal Shelter is closed Thursdays and did not answer calls. Mayor Picozzi’s office deferred questions to a future press conference, details of which have not been announced.

WARWICK, RI — A pair of black coyotes in Oakland Beach have prompted calls to City Hall, Warwick Police, and the RI Department of Environmental Management, who remind folks the animals are a normal part of nature, deserving respectful distance.

Photos of the black coyotes, resembling German Shepherds, began circulating on social media over the weekend. Anne Hinman Diffily mistook the animals for German Shepherds after spotting and photographing them on the Oakland Beach side of Brushneck Cove at about noon Sunday. Adding to the confusion about the animals was a simultaneous post from the owner of two German Shepherds who had lost their dogs. But Animal Control officers later confirmed the black-furred creatures were in fact coyotes.

“We have spoken to DEM and none of the behavior described is abnormal. Please remember these are wild animals and it is not uncommon to see them during the day due to the fact they are not strictly nocturnal,” Warwick Police noted on their Facebook page.

Police also offered some basic advice:

  • Stay at least 150 feet (45 meters) or more from the animal.
  • Supervise Pets. Walk dogs on a leash and keep cats inside for safety.
  • DO NOT FEED. Keeping coyotes wild is the key to coexistence. Their life and your safety depend upon coyotes remaining naturally wary of people

The Warwick Animal Shelter provided additional advice.

“We have to coexist with wildlife. There are coyote pups in the area – please leave them alone so they will move on, and we want you to be aware to keep your pets safe,” Warwick Animal Shelter advised, urging people to stay away from the beach area at the end of Seaview Drive in Oakland Beach, to keep cats inside and to keep dogs on a leash.

Coyotes: Among Us For Decades

According to the Urban Coyote Project, coyotes can use any habitat, but prefer open areas such as prairies and deserts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes pasture features, like slope, rough or broken terrain, brushy cover, and lack of human activity, provide ideal conditions for coyotes. Pastures adjacent to streams, creeks, or rivers may be more prone to coyote activity since water courses serve as coyote hunting and travel corridors.

“In urban areas, coyotes prefer wooded patches and shrubbery, which provides shelter to hide from people. Our research has found that within the urban matrix, coyotes will avoid residential, commercial, and industrial areas but will use any remaining habitat fragments, such as those found in parks and golf courses,” according to the UCP.

The coyote gradually moved east, filling the spots left open by eradication of wolves and mountain lions, and a patchwork of agricultural and forest lands. The first eastern coyotes in New York State were documented in the 1920s, according to the DEM’s   comprehensive coyote guide for people who want a more thorough understanding of the animals’ habits and interaction with people and neighborhoods.

The first eastern coyotes in New York State were documented in the 1920s. In the mid-1960s, there were reports of coyotes hit by cars in North Smithfield and Cranston, and a suspected rabid coyote was put down by Warwick Police in 2016. Today, coyotes can be found in all Rhode Island communities except on Block Island, DEM reports.

The DEM also addresses a number of common questions about sharing the state with coyotes:

Common Coyote Questions Answered

Q: I see a coyote out during the day. Does that mean it has rabies? A: Daytime activity is not a definite indication that a coyote has rabies. Coyotes are commonly active during the day searching for food, especially when they have pups to feed in the spring. This would be considered a sighting. There are other behavioral signs that may indicate a coyote is sick. Abnormal behaviors might include erratic movements, shaking, stumbling, moving sluggishly or lethargically, or acting aggressive towards people or pets. It is impossible to tell if an animal is rabid just by looking at it, but if you see a coyote that is displaying these behaviors, contact RIDEM Division of Fish & Wildlife (401-789-0281) or the Environmental Police at 401-222-3070.

Q: A coyote was walking through my yard and stopped and stared at me. Is that aggressive behavior? Is there something wrong with it? A: No, not necessarily. Wild animals’ survival relies on energy; they have to conserve energy wherever possible – and this can mean the difference between life and death for them. A coyote could see a human and acknowledge that we pose a potential danger, but if it does not think we can or will harm it, it will not waste the energy running away when it doesn’t have to. You could say that it’s conducting a “cost-benefit analysis” on spending the energy to run away. By hazing a coyote, it will see humans as a threat, and it is also more likely to avoid neighborhoods and people in the future. This would be an example of an encounter.

Q: Why can’t we just cull the coyote population? Lethal control is effective in removing an individual, but it is not effective as a population control strategy due to the animal’s unique physiology and life history. When a population is being lethally controlled, fewer coyotes in an area means more available territory and resources, and less competition for them. Research has shown that this increase in land and resources allows for more of the surviving individuals to breed , and have larger litter sizes.

Q: Can they be relocated? Relocation is Ineffective. Faced with unfamiliar surroundings, competition for limited resources, and possibly having been separated from their pack, relocated coyotes will often attempt to return to home ranges or breeding sites. Many animals have excellent homing skills. The animals have demonstrated that they can travel great distances to return to the point of capture.

Q: Why is the coyote here? Wouldn’t it prefer to be out in the forest somewhere? A: Not necessarily. Suburban habitats may provide them (and other species of wildlife) many advantages that forests do not. There may be plenty of food sources available in the form of accessible discarded food in garbage, compost, bird feeders, fruit trees/bushes, gardens, agricultural crops, and small mammals (also attracted by the food/ shelter human habitat provides.) They may have access to pre-made den sites under sheds, porches, or abandoned buildings – and there’s less (if any) hunting allowed in neighborhoods. Since the suburbs provide coyotes with ample food, shelter and safety – they may decide it’s worth the risk of being around people for these many benefits. By removing attractants, we make our yards less appealing to wildlife, and thus reduce the chances of causing nuisance wildlife issues for ourselves. coyote-yard-audit-RIDEM


Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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