Orient Heights resident Lou Scapicchio was heading into work one morning and while driving down St. Andrews Road noticed what looked like a stray dog casually walking down the street.
However, what he thought was a German Shepard at first was in fact an Eastern Coyote. The coyote was walking along the sidewalk, stopping along the way every few seconds to check out its surroundings and zigzagging in and out of driveways of the homes that line St. Andrews.
Scapicchio pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of the animal and posted a warning to his neighbors on Facebook, many of whom let their small dogs roam freely in the backyards of Orient Heights.
“It was cool to see,” said Scapicchio. “However, I know that many of my neighbors have small dogs and let them out in the backyard in the morning so I wanted to alert people to this coyote’s presence in the neighborhood.”
Coyote sightings are nothing new in Eastie and many have spotted the majestic animals in and around Orient Heights because several coyotes are known to call the Belle Isle Marsh and Suffolk Downs home.
However, the sightings are becoming more frequent and no longer confined to the neighborhoods around the Marsh or Suffolk Downs.
Over the summer coyotes have not only been spotted in Orient Heights, but along the East Boston Greenway, the former Savio Field and, in a few rare cases, walking along Webster Street in Jeffries Point several miles from the Marsh and Suffolk Downs.
While it seems the coyote population here may be on the rise as more green space is created and protected in the neighborhood the Department of Conservation and Recreation is trying to educate residents on the animals and potential risks.
According to a flyer recently produced by DCR and circulated in the neighborhood the Eastern Coyote as a mostly solitary animal outside of the breeding season. However they may be in small groups called packs. During the breeding season, or after pups are born, animals may be very territorial or even aggressive if their young are approached too closely. These coyotes are most active at dawn and dusk or after dark, times when they will have the least amount of human interaction, so seeing them early in the morning does not mean they a rabid or more dangerous.
The Eastern Coyote is an opportunistic hunter, which means it will take a wide variety of prey. That said, most animals feed predominantly on small rodents, fruit and berries, rabbits, birds, frogs and insects. Coyotes will scavenge on animal remains, including road-kills, as well as garbage and pet food left out doors.
However, the DCR warns that In urban settings, small domestic house pets left unattended or unleashed in open areas may also fall victim to coyotes.
“Coyotes do not view dogs as “friends” or even as a similar species, but rather something invading its territory or even a possible food source,” the DCR warns. “It is important to always keep your pet on a leash.”
The DCR also warns that it is important to give these animals space when you encounter them. “Coyotes are beautiful to look at but are wild animals and should not be approached,” warns the DCR. “Feeding Coyotes is almost always a death sentence for the animal. Feeding them creates a false sense of trust in humans,often resulting in animals following people around for handouts. This type of behavior would typically result in the coyote being put down by wildlife officers. Coyotes are not dogs,and should not be treated as such.”