Residents see trouble in coyotes

A rise in coyote sightings has Brookline residents on edge and town officials urging legislators to back a new trapping law. A rise in coyote sightings has Brookline residents on edge and town officials urging legislators to back a new trapping law. (George Rizer/Globe Staff/FILE 2004)
By Brock Parker
Globe Correspondent / December 11, 2011
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Pet cats have been reported eaten by coyotes, parents are afraid to let their children play outside, and at least one resident has researched blasting recorded cougar noises at her home to scare off the influx of wild predators in her Brookline neighborhood.

“I’m a city girl,’’ said 63-year-old Ann Tolkoff. “I want to protect the wildlife, but this is insane. I’m just a citizen who is afraid to walk my dog at 10 at night.’’

Tolkoff and other residents of the Corey Hill neighborhood near Coolidge Corner are asking the town for help because they are concerned about what they say are four coyotes, two adults and two growing pups, that have been frequenting their neighborhood for months.

Residents along Jordan Road and Summit Avenue have repeatedly called police to report the sightings, but police say their hands are tied because a state law prevents them from trapping and relocating the coyotes.

The same law has also recently frustrated residents in Newton, where coyotes have also been on the prowl.

Brookline selectmen said they have been lobbying local legislators to push through proposed changes to the law.

Police Chief Daniel O’Leary said reports of coyote sightings in Brookline are up sharply, from a total of 17 last year to 102 so far this year. More than 30 of the calls have come from the Corey Hill neighborhood, he said.

The town’s animal control officer, Pierre Verrier, said he’s tried to determine whether the coyotes have a den in the neighborhood, where he said a few residents have reported pet cats being eaten by the predators. The number of wild turkeys reported in Brookline has also dropped in the past year, possibly due to the coyotes, Verrier said.

Verrier said he also received a call Monday from a woman in south Brookline who reported she was chased by a coyote, but she didn’t leave her phone number for him to follow up.

Jordan Road resident Valerie Levine said she’s heard the coyotes howling at night, and has seen them so many times that she either carries her children from her car to the house, or makes them run inside whenever they return home in the dark.

“I’m worried about them being attacked,’’ she said.

When Levine first reported seeing a coyote, she said, an animal control officer recommended making loud noises to scare the animals away. But over time, the coyotes have become less fearful and no longer scare so easily, Levine said.

While she used to let her children, 3 and 5 years old, play in the yard, Levine said, she keeps them inside now unless she’s outside right beside them.

With the turkeys in the neighborhood seeming to have disappeared along with several pet cats, Levine said she worries the coyotes might come after her youngsters next.

“I just don’t want them to go up the food chain,’’ she said.

Tolkoff held a meeting with about 30 of her neighbors last month to discuss the problem, and on Tuesday relayed some of the neighborhood concerns to selectmen while asking the board what can be done.

Tolkoff said she’s heard of different ways to run off coyotes, from putting tennis balls soaked with ammonia in their dens to playing recordings of growling cougars at high volume. But for the cougar recordings to be successful, everyone in the neighborhood would have to crank up their home stereos, she said.

Tolkoff told selectmen during their meeting Tuesday that many neighborhood residents think the coyotes should be relocated, and that she thinks they should be shot, if necessary.

“We are threatened,’’ she said. “I am threatened.’’

But O’Leary said that under state law, police can not kill a coyote unless it is aggressive toward a human.

The state’s Wildlife Protection Act also banned body-gripping traps in 1996 on the grounds that they are inhumane. State wildlife personnel can use box traps, but they have not been effective. One proposal on Beacon Hill, House Bill 3315, would allow the use of newer, reportedly more humane devices called body-holding traps to catch problem coyotes.

Selectwoman Nancy Daly, who noted she recently saw a large coyote in her neighborhood, said she wants to encourage residents to keep track of sightings and report them, so the town will have more evidence to convince legislators that the law must be changed.

“These animals are big and they are dangerous, and I don’t think they belong in these tightly packed neighborhoods,’’ Daly said. “You could take a skunk away, but you have to bend over backwards for these coyotes.’’

At Tolkoff’s urging, selectmen said they would ask town attorneys to review state laws regarding coyotes to see what constitutes a threat that could enable police to take more drastic action against encroaching animals.

Tolkoff said she’s planning another neighborhood meeting for Jan. 10 and inviting state and local officials, hoping to brainstorm what can be done about the situation.

“We have to do something, not just tell me we have to coexist,’’ Tolkoff said. “I’ve been married 41 years. I know how to coexist.’’

Brock Parker can be reached at

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