With goal of population control, RI coyote study underway

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Numi Mitchell, lead scientist of the Narragansett Coyote Study, is working with the R.I. Department of Environmental Management, the South Kingstown Land Trust, and Rhode Island residents on a five-year study aiming to help control the coyote population and make them easier to live with.

As part of the study, coyotes are trapped, tranquilized, collared, and then released back into the wild. The collars are then used to track their location and behavior.

"We're running an experiment to see if removal of food resources that are provided by people will change things," Mitchell explained. 

Those food resources include things like compost piles and small pets.  

"Coywolf" has become a commonly used name to describe animals that are part coyote, part wolf.  Mitchell said she feels this is causing unnecessary anxiety about Rhode Island coyotes. 

"It seems that a lot of the press lately has been about the monstrous quality of coyotes, and when you really see how big they are, it's not nearly so frightening," she said.

Mitchell also said that even though the local coyotes do have some wolf genes from past interbreeding in Canada, she has never caught a coyote more than 51 pounds in Rhode Island. A wolf tends to range from 100 to 120 pounds. Mitchell points out that "the coyotes that we catch are about the size of a border collie."

Generally, Mitchell said coyotes are not aggressive towards people but, "One of those things to protect is your small pets, to never let them outside wandering around or getting far from you because those small animals under 30 pounds are prey for coyotes."

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