New London students educate homeowners about coyotes

New London Police Department Officer Ryan Soccio, left, walks with Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School eighth-grade students as they deliver coyote safety materials to homes on Friday, May 19, 2017, along Ocean Avenue in New London. Students and members of the police department distributed pamphlets door to door in the south end of the city, where coyotes have been seen. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
New London Police Department Officer Ryan Soccio, left, walks with Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School eighth-grade students as they deliver coyote safety materials to homes on Friday, May 19, 2017, along Ocean Avenue in New London. Students and members of the police department distributed pamphlets door to door in the south end of the city, where coyotes have been seen. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London — Walking through various neighborhoods in the city’s south end on Friday, Erica Anforth said she wasn’t much concerned about running into one of the coyotes frequently spotted in that area.

Not only was Anforth joined by the chief of police and five fellow eighth-grade students from Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School’s leadership program, but she has some common sense.

“Really, if you just stay away from the coyotes and leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone,” Anforth said.

Some of that wisdom was being shared by the students with the hundreds of homeowners in the area as they went door to door to distribute informational pamphlets on how to create coyote-safe homes.

One of the most important tips was not to feed the coyotes intentionally or inadvertently by leaving pet food or garbage outside.

More than 50 students broke up into teams with leaders that included police officers and school staff. Most of the flyers were left in mailboxes though occasionally curious homeowners came out to ask questions.

Glenwood Avenue resident Carla Mazzi owns a pug and two cats and, well aware of the danger posed by the coyotes to her pets, keeps them on a leash or inside on most days. Mazzi said she is an animal lover and not only cares about the well-being of her pets but also for the coyote.

“I’ve seen one in my front yard. They don’t bother anybody,” Mazzi said.

Her recommendation, if something had to be done was, “take them away.”

“Please don’t shoot them,” she said.

Acting Police Chief Peter Reichard said police had no plans to hunt or shoot a coyote unless it poses a threat to a humans. To date, he said, the animals have not acted aggressively toward a human. At least two small dogs, however, have fallen prey to coyotes over the past few months and that has led residents to call on the city to take action.

Wildlife experts say that while coyotes typically are reclusive, the ones living in urban settings such as New London become habituated and lose their fear of humans.

Reichard said the department continues to field calls about coyote sightings but said the information being distributed on Friday might help lower the number of calls. The information includes tips on how to “haze” the animals, which is essentially making loud noises or doing things like spraying water at the coyotes to not only scare them away but make them feel unwelcome.

It eventually could keep coyotes out of backyards and “be a lifesaver for many innocent animals,” Anforth predicts.

Reichard said Friday’s program, held in coordination with Bennie Dover Principal Alison Burdick, was another part of the department’s “Building Bridges” community policing initiative with New London Public Schools.

On May 26, students and police will join together for a dodgeball game at Bennie Dover.

g.smith@theday.com

Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School eighth-grade students Jaraliz Ramos, left, and Julia Jones pull apart a packet of pamphlets as they deliver coyote safety materials to homes on Friday, May 19, 2017, along Ocean Avenue in New London. Students and members of the police department distributing the pamphlets door to door in the south end of the city, where coyotes have been seen. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School eighth-grade students Jaraliz Ramos, left, and Julia Jones pull apart a packet of pamphlets as they deliver coyote safety materials to homes on Friday, May 19, 2017, along Ocean Avenue in New London. Students and members of the police department distributing the pamphlets door to door in the south end of the city, where coyotes have been seen. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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