EXPANDED STORY: Two Weston preserves remain closed due to coyote activity

Closed Nature Preserves

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Taylor Woods/Thorp Preserve: 41.200615, -73.337216
Tall Pines Preserve: 41.197999, -73.341208

The Aspetuck Land Trust has closed two of its nature preserves until a pack of coyotes leaves the area.

The Taylor Woods/Thorp Preserve along Hunt Lane and Thorp Drive, and the Tall Pines Preserve at Fanton Hill Road and Twin Walls Lane are closed and off limits to visitors until further notice.

The town of Weston issued a Code Red alert to neighboring properties last Friday, Aug. 24, when the preserves were first closed, warning residents of the presence of aggressive coyotes. The alert said, “No attacks have been reported, but increasingly aggressive behavior has been observed.”

The alert further advised, “If you see a coyote, retreat but do not run. It is also advisable to keep your pets attended for the immediate future.”

While coyote sightings are nothing new in Weston, the coyotes at the nature preserves are displaying unusual behavior by following residents and large dogs, according to Mark Harper, Weston’s animal control officer.

“It’s a big enough problem and could be a compromise of safety to residents and pets,” he said.

Jennifer Goetz of Thorp Drive and her dog were followed home by a coyote last week.

Jennifer Goetz of Thorp Drive and her dog were followed home by a coyote last week. —Patricia Gay photo

One of the coyote reports Mr. Harper received was from Jennifer Goetz, who said a coyote followed her and her dogs, two black Labrador retrievers, from the Tall Pines preserve all the way to the front door of her home on Thorp Drive.

She said the coyote was snarling and she was scared of what might happen if the dogs got into a fight with it. “In the nature preserve, I first saw a white coyote and then a shaggy brown one. The brown one came within 20 feet of me so I yelled and pulled the dogs away. As I walked out of the land trust, the coyote followed me down the street,” she said.

Ms. Goetz and her dogs made it safely inside her home while the coyote ran off into the woods.

Sibylle Thaler of Cardinal Road said she was walking in Tall Pines preserve with her dog when two coyotes chased her.

Coyote danger sign

Weston’s Animal Control Officer, Mark Harper, stands behind a sign posted at the Tall Pines Nature Preserve. —Patricia Gay photo

Mr. Harper said there was also a recent report that a coyote in the same area lured a Jack Russell terrier outside of the electric fence aorund its home, where a pack of coyotes emerged and attacked it.

The coyotes appear to be in good health and are not suspected to be acting aggressively because of an illness, such as rabies.

“My belief is these coyotes are getting very comfortable around people and so they aren’t afraid to approach them. They’re getting smarter,” Mr. Harper said.

DEEP weighs in

David Brant, executive director of the Aspetuck Land Trust, and Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein reported the coyotes to Jason Hawley, a wildlife biologist with the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

Mr. Hawley said while it is wise to shut down the preserves for a week or two, he does not think the coyotes are posing an imminent threat, and that they will probably soon be leaving the immediate vicinity.

“From what I’ve been told, it sounds to me like there is a den that was made in the spring when a female coyote was pregnant. Coyotes stay at the den site until their pups are old enough to move on with the adults,” he said.

Because the den is next to a walking trail, the coyotes are likely protecting it and that’s why they are interacting with people and dogs, Mr. Hawley said. “It’s not unusual for coyotes to follow people in order to make sure their pups are protected. This is normal behavior for suburban coyotes,” he said.

When the pups are old enough, the coyotes will move on and that should happen soon, according to Mr. Hawley.

Although the DEEP could issue the land trust and the town a nuisance permit allowing a wildlife operator to remove the coyotes, Mr. Hawley said the DEEP is not going to do that at this time.

“We take each situation on a case-by-case basis and the coyotes in this situation haven’t been aggressive. That’s not to say things can’t change. They are still wild animals and you can’t predict what they are going to do. It’s a good idea to shut down the trail until the den moves on,” he said.

Residents with any questions about the coyotes may contact Mr. Harper at 203-222-2642. Emergency calls should be made to 911.

The DEEP maintains a coyote fact sheet providing further advice on living with coyotes.

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  • Jean Marie Wiesen

    I find this article to be somewhat lopsided, well at least until it reaches the portion where the head of the Aspetuck Land Trust enters as well as the contact from the DEEP. Thankfully, David Brant, the Director of ALT is level headed enough to get in touch w/ Jason Hawley of the DEEP in order to get his expertise on the coyote situation, otherwise, we’d be in deep trouble. Please note where Mr. Hawley states that the coyote has not been aggressive. This is a crucial point, and I will tell you why; I myself have met this coyote, now on (2) separate occasions and outside of the normal yipping, she did nothing aggressive to either me or my (2) pups. Yes, that’s correct, my (2) pups, who, btw were unleashed and both of them went right up to her, unbeknown to me, of course as we were hiking at the time. It wasn’t until I heard her yipping that I realized what was going on and called for them. Only (1) returned, immediately, whereas the other didn’t. I ran up the trail, continuing to call for him, while she yipped. I finally heard him running down the hill, from where she was standing, the exact moment that I saw her; she didn’t move the entire time. I checked them both to be sure they weren’t injured, bitten or otherwise. No, I wasn’t frightened, b/c I realized she more than likely had her kits w/ her and was guarding them from a potential threat-me and my pups and wasn’t about to leave them. She was approximately 25-30 yards from me. When I was satisfied my boys weren’t injured, I leashed them, grabbed a stick, yelled at her and continued walking, turned to the left, which brought me a little closer to her, but she maintained her position and I walked out of the preserve.

    I’ve had years of experience w/ coyotes in S. CA while walking my dogs and this is entirely typical of their behavior as is reinforced by Mr. Hawley of the DEEP. Coyotes, in my experience are afraid of humans and when you yell at them, they run away. They may appear to linger, for a bit, but when challenged, they take off. Yes, they’re hunters, they’re predatory wild animals and we live next to their habitat as we do w/ other wildlife, so there’s no need for panic, they’re not going to knock on your front door for Halloween, nor are the raccoons, or turkeys.

    As Mr. Hawley said, when it’s time for her to move on w/ her young, she will. Until that time, the ALT has in their wisdom closed the preserve until further notice. I trust that both David and Jason will let us know when it’s safe to go hiking w/ our dogs in Tall Pines, again as should the rest of you.

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