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Cape Cod is "Coyote country"

LateGreetingCane - Jon Way

Photography by Dr. Jonathan Way

Coyotes prefer to live in open wooded areas, bushes and marshlands, generally avoiding residential and commercial areas. They seek shelter to avoid people, and will use a den for a short time following the birth of a pup litter.

Paul Wightman, who worked for the Town of Orleans’ Natural Resources Department as an endangered species shorebird specialist from 2012 to 2015, says the area surrounding Nauset Beach is an ideal habitat for coyotes. The region is not very developed and features a fresh water source and an abundance of meadow voles. “It is a natural environment where coyotes can survive and thrive in,” Wightman says.

Byers, who assisted Wightman in monitoring plovers and Eastern terns at Nauset Beach, says while in previous years the main threat to these birds included crows and erosion, in 2015 it was the coyote. Wightman explains that the standard enclosures used to cover plover nests were failing to protect the birds. “[The coyotes] were digging under them, eating the birds and the eggs,” Wightman says, “and the plovers’ numbers were alarmingly low.”

In agricultural Southern states, lethal predation is sometimes used to remove coyotes entirely, but that, Wightman says, “is an unpopular option on the Cape.” After submitting data to the federal government, Wightman and Orleans’ natural resources manager, Nate Sears, took a more humane approach in 2015 to increase plover numbers without harming one of the bird’s natural predators. Their solution was to electrify the enclosures, an effort that resulted in perhaps the highest productivity of plovers in the region. “The birds are not big enough to be affected [by the electricity],” Wightman says, “and the coyotes’ behavior is redirected—and they leave the nests alone.”

A Waltham resident, John Maguranis is Massachusetts’ representative for Project Coyote, a national organization whose mission is to educate the public about coyotes. “They are amazing animals,” Maguranis says. “Most people think coyotes are running around eating children but they aren’t predators of people.”

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