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Sullivan: Coyotes in Forest Park pose no threat

Date: 6/9/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Although there may be a coyote den in Forest Park, Department of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management Executive Director Patrick Sullivan said the park is very safe.

City officials announced on Wednesday that the carcass of a deer was found near the Barney Mausoleum on June 2 and it appeared to have been attacked by coyotes.

Sullivan said that coyotes living in the park are "nothing new" and that coyotes have been seen in the park on and off for more than a decade. What concerned park officials was that the deer's body was in a very public area of the park.

Sullivan said park employees have identified two coyote dens in the past. They are currently looking for a den, which if found, would be monitored. He said the coyotes might not be living in the park, but have included it as part of their territory.

According to the Web site of Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, many people mistake large dogs and red and grey foxes as coyotes.

"Coyotes are the size of a medium-size dog, but with longer, thicker fur," the Web site noted. "Coyotes have a long, bushy, black-tipped tail that is usually carried pointing down. A coyote is typically four to five feet in length, from snout to tip of tail. Their snout is long and slender, and their ears are pointed and erect."

Coyotes are protected fur-bearing animals in Massachusetts.

Sullivan said the public visiting the park should make sure young children and small dogs stay within sight and that dogs should remain on a leash.

"We expect no problems," he added. He asked the public to take the following precautions:

• "Never feed coyotes: When wild animals are fed they lose their natural fear of people and become more aggressive. Feeding wild animals puts the animal, yourself and your neighbors at risk.

• "Clean up around your house and yard: This is the best way you can help prevent any human-coyote conflict. Common attractants for coyotes (and mice, rats, raccoons, skunks and bears) include accessible garbage, compost, pet food and yard fruit. Coyotes will also prey on cats and small dogs. To ensure your cat's safety keep it indoors or within an enclosed outdoor cat run. Keep small dogs on a leash and within sight while walking."

Sullivan said that warning signs about coyotes will be posted in the park by next week.

Although the 735-acre park is in New England's fourth largest city, Sullivan noted there are deer, rabbits, raccoons and foxes, among other animals, that call it home.