A coyote spotted for several weeks lurking around a school playground in Arlington, Massachusetts, has been put down by authorities after it was being fed by nearby residents.
Police are now urging residents to avoid feeding the animals after the one coyote kept returning to a Crosby Street neighborhood in northeast Arlington. The concern was that it was getting too comfortable with humans and too close to John A. Bishop Elementary School.
Ten-year-old Dominic Correa told NBC10 Boston that he had to cut playtime short with his friends every time they were paid a visit by an uninvited guest.
“Our family warned us that there was a coyote right over there,” Correa said as he pointed to a corner of his backyard that leads to the school playground.
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The coyote was spotted lurking in people’s backyard for several weeks as it searched for sources of food.
Little did she know, Correa’s guardian, Fatima Apaieci, was not doing it a favor by giving it something to eat.
“I did a big mistake because I had no idea, and like four or five times I gave it food,” she said.
Authorities were notified around 11 a.m. Friday after the coyote kept returning.
“When we started looking into it, we determined and we found that it was actually a home adjacent to an elementary school playground,” noted Arlington Police Captain Richard Flynn.
This has not been the only incident with coyotes in the area. In September 2021, two young girls were bitten by a coyote in their yards -- within a mile of the Friday sighting.
Flynn said coyotes are no strangers to the area, but the coyote in question had developed an affinity to humans. Therefore, after consulting with Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, authorities decided it needed to be put down before the school let children out for recess at noon.
"It is clear that this coyote had been repeatedly fed by a resident in the area, and therefore had lost all fear of humans," Chief Juliann Flaherty said. "While it is unfortunate to have to take this step, it is important that we protect our residents from wild animal attacks given the recent history and number of sightings in the past few weeks."
Police are urging residents to do all they can to keep coyotes away from their food by sharing several tips that include, securing their garbage in tightly sealed containers; cleaning bird feeders daily; and closing off sheltered areas that coyotes can fit in. They also advise people to feed pets indoors and scare coyotes away with loud noises if need be.
“These are wild animals. Leave them be. Let them be wild. Don’t do anything to try to change their habits because really only bad things happen at that point,” said Flynn.
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife biologist Dave Wattles says the chances of getting attacked by a coyote increases when they become reliant on human food.
“They become habituated to people, they are associating people with food and they start to develop bold behaviors that make the animal become a public safety threat,” Wattles said.
When this happens, a coyote "may not run off when harassed or chased, and may approach or follow people," Wattles added.
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Wattles noted this season is one of two during the year that are peak for negative interactions between coyotes and humans and pets, which is why authorities are trying to educate the public about avoiding these potential encounters.
"It is extremely important for the public to understand the role they play in preventing negative encounters with coyotes," said Wattles. "Intentional feeding of coyotes unquestionably increases the likelihood of a coyote biting someone."
More details on coyotes in Massachusetts can be found here.