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In downtown Manchester, and around NH, coyote sightings on the rise

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 20. 2012 11:33PM

MANCHESTER - Pond Drive is the type of neighborhood where everyone knows everyone. So when Jim Keane caught a glimpse of his newest neighbor in the headlights of his truck one recent Saturday night, he was surprised.

'I was like, 'What?' - I know what a coyote looks like. I've seen them in Arizona. That was a coyote,' he said.

While the thought of a coyote traversing a busy and populated area like the one in and around Goffs Falls Road - near Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Brown Avenue and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport - may sound ridiculous, officials with New Hampshire Fish and Game aren't surprised at all.

'It's not unusual to hear of a sighting in an area like that,' said Patrick Tate, a wildlife biologist with NH Fish and Game. 'You hear about them statewide. As long as the essentials are there - food, water, and shelter - they will make a go of it. The population there, the sound of planes overhead - if the essentials are there, they will adapt to make it home. They can learn to live on the outer edges of the city.'

Tate said that sightings of Eastern coyotes typically increase this time of year, the animal's breeding season. They can also increase after a coyote has a litter of pups. Sightings usually take place at night, but reports of coyotes spotted during the day typically increase once their young are born.

That news has Keane concerned.

'There's a daycare school right up the hill,' said Keane. 'There are kids who walk through this neighborhood to school. I walked through here to school. They and their parents need to be aware that these coyotes are around.'

Each call we get is legit,' said Parker Hall, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Service in Concord. 'It fluctuates all throughout the state. You can pretty much bet all neighborhoods have coyotes, whether they know it or not. They're not going to be huge or large populations, but they're very, very adaptable.'

Hall said every year, as the snow begins to melt, he and his colleagues begin getting calls reporting sightings.

'This is the time of year when our complaints start to ramp up a little bit - this is the time of year when it's hard on coyotes living in the wild,' he said. 'It's a stressful time for them. Food is scarcer at this time of year. It's probably a little easier on them this year because they can get to the ground and eat mice and rats,'

Keane described the animal he saw as being about 5 feet long, and weighing roughly 50 pounds. Tate said the typical Eastern coyote averages between 30 and 40 pounds, and can look bigger than it actually is.

'The hair in their fur can stand about two inches long,' said Tate.

Keane said he has heard from friends, and seen postings online, regarding missing pets.

Hall said it's entirely possible that coyotes are to blame.

'We get a lot of reports of that,' said Hall. 'Cats are an easy prey for coyotes - especially the young that don't know how to fend for themselves other than climbing trees. They're pretty defenseless. They'll go after a small dog, a lap dog, that's just a few pounds. Anything larger than that, and a coyote's not likely to tangle with it. They're wild animals. They have to weigh whether it's worth it to tangle with an animal their size or bigger - they don't have the luxury of going to the veterinarian if they get hurt.'

Tate said that the Pond Drive area is actually an ideal location for the coyotes to establish a territory.

'You have the Cohas Marsh area right there, along the edge of the airport,' said Tate. 'That would feature water, brush and small animals for them to feed on.'

In January, a Barrington woman reported watching a coyote take her 17-pound Sheltie into the woods. Also in January, Alex Cazmay, 9, of Atkinson, said she was bitten by a coyote while visiting friends in Haverhill, Mass.

Keane says the increased development through the area has likely pushed the animals into his neighborhood.

'I was talking to some friends, and this one guy said with all the development on the hillside at Crystal Lake, we're getting coyotes all the time now,' said Keane. 'He said we've had two or three go through our yard, and someone else saw one come through with seven pups. I had no idea. My grandfather lives here. He's lived here 68 years - he's never seen a coyote.'

New Hampshire Union Leader Reporter Doug Alden contributed to this story.

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