How to Solve the Coyote Problem?

By Toni Waterman

Feb. 19, 2012


Cody, a Yorkshire terrier, was killed by a coyote in a suburban front yard. (Courtesy of Deb Toyias)

NEWTON — When Deb Toyias woke up on Oct. 3,2011, she did what she always does: She let her 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Cody, out the front door. It was about 6:30 a.m.
“I had just come back into the kitchen because usually I leave him out for five or 10 minutes,” she said, walking into her kitchen. “And I got this far into the kitchen and heard this horrific yelp. And it really stopped me because I knew something was wrong. “
She thought Cody had been hit by a car, so she raced back to the front door.
“When I had got to the front door, I was right here and a coyote had come from the shrub right in front of my house and the dog was lying on his back the coyote had him by the mouth this way,” she said, her hands gripping her side like the coyote’s mouth. “His head was tilted back looking at me through the window.”
Toyias said she became hysterical, her screams waking up her family. Her husband bounded down the stairs, bolted out the door and chased the coyote up the street, still wearing his bathrobe.
“By the time he got there, the coyote had dropped the dog. So he came back with the dog in his arms and I said to him, 'What should I do?'” said Toyias, tears streaming down her cheeks. “'Should I call the vet? What should we do?' And he said, 'No, Debbie. Don’t bother.’”
Even though it was too late for Cody, Toyias wanted the Newton police to capture the coyote. However, their hands were tied because the state has strict trapping laws that ban body-gripping traps. Box traps are allowed, but they’re bulky and hard to manage.
Instead, they gave her tips on what to do if she encountered another coyote.
“They said to get large pots and start banging them, making a lot of noise, to throw tennis balls at them or things to deter them,” she said.
But to Toyias, noise and tennis balls aren’t enough. In early February, another dog was killed by a coyote in Wellesley. The incident sparked public outcry, with many asking for better ways to deal with the unwanted animals.

belmont coyote map
Coyote sightings in Belmont, Mass., which has a coyote info webpage

There is new legislation making its way through the State House that would allow officials to trap, then euthanize coyotes. But Belmont animal control officer John Maguranis said killing them won’t solve the problem.
“When they’re stressed by predation, whether it’s traps, poison, aerial gunning or whatever, they producer faster and bigger litters. So it’s counterproductive,” he said.
Maguranis said the only solution is education.
“To me it’s just common sense. It’s so simple. It’s just educate the people not to leave trash out, pick up stuff," he said. "If you see coyotes, confront them, act aggressively towards them."
The bill could be voted on in the next couple of months, which Toyias said gave her some comfort. As for getting another dog, she wasn't sure she was ready: “I know I can’t replace him. He had life in him. He had a lot of spunk. He was a great dog. He was just a great dog.”

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