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 March 27, 2005
Bills introduced in legislature address growing coyote population
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PROVIDENCE, R.I.- Rhode Island lawmakers have responded to the growing coyote population by introducing bills that seek to get an accurate count of the animals and forbid harming them with certain trapping methods.

A bill from Sen. William Walaska, D-Warwick, would set standards for the Department of Environmental Management to address the coyote population. Walaska's legislation includes few specifics on what can be done to control coyote numbers, however. Another bill from Rep. Joseph Trillo, D-Warwick, would ban steel foothold traps in Rhode Island. It's backed by the animal rights group Defenders of Animals, which argues the method is cruel, and household pets could be snared in the traps.

The state has issued steel foothold traps eight times since 1999, and none since 2002, said Mike Lapisky, acting head of the DEM Division of Fish and Wildlife. The DEM "has never had any complaints about non-target species getting caught," Lapisky said. State wildlife officials report the eastern coyote is found in every community in the state except Block Island. They don't have an accurate count, but generally estimate there are three to five per square mile in the Ocean State.

The animals are drawn by an abundant food supply, and have relatively few competitors. Coyotes are shy, nocturnal animals, and pose little threat to humans. The DEM said there've no reports of a coyote attack on a human. Some have suggested introducing wolves, which are enemies of the coyote.

Tests are being conducted in Maine and a few Western states, but Lapisky told The Providence Journal it is less likely to work in Rhode Island because the wolf does not naturally prey on the coyote, and because of the human population density in Rhode Island.

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