CoyoteSmarts is a public information initiative of the Potter League for Animals, The Conservation Agency, Rhode Island Natural History Survey, Aquidneck Land Trust, and Norman Bird Sanctuary—a group of Rhode Island organizations that have come together to address the growing presence of coyotes on Aquidneck and Conanicut Islands, and in other communities throughout the state. Our mission is to work with municipalities and other local entities, along with state agencies and statewide organizations, to raise public awareness of coyotes, encourage best management practices, and promote effective strategies for keeping our pets, families and communities safe. Funding for our project has been provided by the Prince Charitable Trusts and the Rhode Island Foundation.
The Potter League for Animals has sheltered, protected and cared for animals since 1929. As Newport County’s animal resource center, we respond to a wide variety of issues facing companion animals, advocate for animals, and are committed to solutions that prevent suffering and neglect. Education and collaboration are core beliefs that guide our work and enable us to better reach and impact both the animals and the community. Because of the conflicts between pets and coyotes, the Potter League has supported the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study and the effort to educate about co-existing with coyotes. We are proud to serve as the lead organization for the CoyoteSmarts initiative in order to create a wider network for sharing ways to protect pets and demystify coyotes.
The Conservation Agency (TCA) is a scientific, non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the conservation of natural biodiversity: the world’s fauna and flora. We are distinctly different from the many other fine conservation organizations because we concentrate on scientific research and publication of results, usually in peer-reviewed journals. Our efforts can be divided into two broad, overlapping areas: exploration and discovery; conservation and management.
In 2004, TCA launched the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study (NBCS) to respond to management concerns about Rhode Island’s newest top predator. Coyotes colonized the state in the 1960s. By the 1990’s, after they reached the Narragansett Bay Islands, coyotes became increasingly abundant and problematic in some neighborhoods. For the past decade, using a novel science-based approach involving GPS tracking, NBCS has brought island communities and schools along for the adventure as we discovered the source of the “coyote problem” and how to fix it.
NBCS research resulted in a toolbox for municipalities: Best Management Practices for Coexistence with and Management of Coyotes on Aquidneck and Conanicut Islands (CBMPs). One of the primary recommendations in the CBMPs involves public education and outreach. CoyoteSmarts is a consortium of island organizations uniquely qualified to bring the CBMP solutions to the public and galvanize new behaviors needed to live safely with coyotes.
Rhode Island Natural History Survey (RINHS) is a non-profit organization founded in 1994 with a mission to advance scientific understanding of Rhode Island’s biology, geology, and ecosystems, encourage the application of scientific information to environmental conservation challenges, and spread scientific understanding of the environment to the next generation. It manages a database documenting the state’s species and natural communities, publishes books and articles, and hosts public events. RINHS values and encourages the contributions of naturalists of all ages and skill levels, professional or amateur. Membership is open to anyone with an interest in Rhode Island’s plants, animals, geology, or ecosystems. RINHS has provided a range of support, including grant-writing and administrative capacity, to the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study since 2007 and particularly values the NBCS’s creative and energetic pursuit of novel scientific data and its success at achieving wildlife management goals thereby. RINHS is pleased to join forces with The Conservation Agency—the parent organization of NBCS— and our Aquidneck Island partners in pursuing the goal of a “coyote smart” Rhode Island.
The Aquidneck Land Trust (“ALT”) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with a mission to preserve the island’s open space and natural character for the lasting benefit of the community. ALT has preserved over 2400 acres of open space lands on Aquidneck Island.
There is a misperception that the preservation of open space lands contributes to large coyote populations on Aquidneck Island; that if there weren’t open spaces near our neighborhoods, the coyotes wouldn’t be in our neighborhoods. While open space lands do provide habitat for coyotes, the reason that they venture off of habitat lands and into residential neighborhoods has nothing to do with the adjacent natural habitat. Studies have clearly shown that it’s the feeding practices within those neighborhoods. If people leave food out (i.e. pet food, uncovered compost materials, bird feed), coyotes will keep coming back to the easy food source and will become habituated to seeking food in the neighborhoods as opposed to their natural habitats. However, in places where there is no neighborhood feeding, the coyotes remain on the open space parcels and seek wildlife prey thereon without in any way creating a nuisance for humans. ALT is pleased to be a part of the CoyoteSmarts initiative to help raise awareness about coyotes and how we can affect coyote behavior, and to implement best practices for co-existence with coyotes.
The Norman Bird Sanctuary is an environmental organization that stewards a 325-acre wildlife refuge on Aquidneck Island and provides educational programs in our community and throughout the region. Our organizational mission states that we are here for the habitats and species that reside on our site as well as to provide educational experiences. It is important to continue to address the issues that have arisen around our coyote population by providing clear and fact-based information. We are pleased to be partnering in the efforts to promote awareness of the coyote situation on Aquidneck Island and hope that the CoyoteSmarts initiative can help our community approach this multi-layered issue with sensitivity and a collaborative spirit.
Photo credit: ©David Hansen, Newport Daily News