More than 3,000 humans and around a dozen coyotes live in the Massachusetts town of Nahant's one square mile—and they are not living in harmony. The town's three-member Board of Selectmen voted last month to make the town the first in the state to call in federal sharpshooters to kill the coyotes under a partnership with the US Department of Agriculture, the New York Times reports. Residents say coyotes have become a dangerous nuisance in the town, which is surrounded by water and connected to the mainland by a causeway, making it difficult for the animals to leave. Town administrator Antonio Barletta say around two dozen pets have disappeared over the last two years, and three leashed dogs accompanied by their owners were killed in brazen coyote attacks, reports the AP.
Town authorities say numerous people have reported being stalked by coyotes while walking their dogs. MassWildlife biologist Dave Wattles says the attacks on dogs show the town has a serious problem. "While it’s certainly tragic when someone’s pet is taken by a coyote, almost all of the time it’s a cat that’s outside, a dog that’s off-leash in the backyard. Those things are considered normal coyote behavior," Wattles tells WGBH. "In Nahant, it’s now attacks on pets with people on the leash." Some residents now carry whistles and baseball bats when they walk around town and some have bought spiked "coyote jackets" for their dogs, the Times reports.
The cull is expected to happen this month and will be carried out at night using night-vision gear. Still, some residents are against it and want to adopt a more humane approach. Experts say the local coyotes seem to have almost completely lost their fear of humans and in the long term, Nahant residents need to "haze" the animals by making noise and throwing things at them, the Times reports. "If humans act submissive toward them, and run away, it teaches them they’re the king of Nahant," Wattles said during a meeting last summer. "You have to teach them you’re a threat, and they’re not welcome." Experts say that in other communities, coyotes became more aggressive toward humans after people starting feeding them. (Read more coyote stories.)