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The coyote debate that has divided a small American town

The coyote debate that has divided a small American town

No, Mass. From inside her living room, Anna Cox looks out over the Atlantic Ocean. The sun’s rays glimmer over the horizon on a recent January morning as she begins to talk about the coyote problem that has divided the small seaside town of Nahant, Massachusetts.

Back in 2020, Cox’s 10-month-old cat, Jackie, went missing. A few days later, a neighbor posted a photo of Jackie’s remains on a community Facebook page. Cox knew from the collar in the picture that it was her missing cat. Even after two years, this test has shaken him.

“It was gut-wrenching. He had a little bell in his collar and maybe he took them straight to him,” Cox said with a little crack in his voice.

It was a painful life lesson for this former first grade teacher, who quickly learned she was not alone in her grief.

“People didn’t really start to care until the dogs were eaten,” Cox said.

In recent years, the seaside town of Nahant of 3,000 has seen an increasing number of coyote attacks on animals. Coyotes have become so widespread on the peninsula that day or night, residents who venture out do whatever they can to protect themselves and their pets. Some carry baseball bats, and others, like Tim Brennan, carry large walking sticks to ward off coyotes by misting them if needed.

“It’s just a part of our daily lives. They are very much present,” Brennan said.

Resident Carl Lanzilli also bought a $100 coyote jacket studded with metal spikes to protect his small dog, Coco.

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“If the coyote gets to his neck, it will stop him,” Lanzilli said as he loaded Coco into the front seat of his SUV.

Several Facebook groups like “Nahant Coyote Victims” help residents keep track of sightings and attacks. No human has ever been hurt. But the tide has turned so much in Nahant that sharpshooters from the US Department of Agriculture were called in last year to help reduce coyote numbers.

Due to how densely populated the peninsula is, hunting is not legal here under Massachusetts law. It is a decision that has divided this one square mile of land.

Anna Cox, who lost her cat, is among those who feel something needs to be done.

“I think their numbers are too high, and I have no problem eliminating them,” she said.

Coyotes can be found in every US state except Hawaii. Increasingly, they are making homes in more populated areas where hunting is not allowed, a story common to communities nationwide like what happened in Nahant.

Animal advocate Deb Newman, who lives in nearby Swampscott, Massachusetts, said many residents were afraid to speak up before sharpshooters were called in.

“Because it’s such a small town, people were worried that their neighbors wouldn’t like them anymore. It really demonized the coyotes,” Newman said.

It’s unclear how many coyotes those USDA sharpshooters have killed since being called in.

A USDA spokesperson told Scripps News in an email that the Nahunt coyote removal program has begun and that the end of the operation could take several months before more information is released.

For the town, Nahant Town Administrator Antonio Barletta said, “US Department of Agriculture (USDA) wildlife service professionals are working in Nahant under the terms of a cooperative service agreement with the town. Their work addresses an important issue in our community.” addresses.

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For now, residents like Anna Cox are doing whatever they can to keep their pets safe. Cox recently adopted a new cat, Lexie, and she takes whistles and an airhorn with her wherever she goes. Both were provided by the city to help prevent attacks.

Cox hopes her idyllic New England beach town returns to its serene state.

Cox said, “I can accept that they are beautiful, but if the numbers go down, we’ll know something’s up.”

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