3rd incident in 3 weeks; state officials offer perspective

Media at Summer Hill Circle get ready to discuss coyote attacks with Michael Huguenin, right, assistant director of wildlife, for MassWildlife. / Marjorie Howard photoMedia at Summer Hill Circle get ready to discuss coyote attacks with Michael Huguenin, right, assistant director of wildlife, for MassWildlife. / Marjorie Howard photo

UPDATED, Sept. 9: Arlington police continued their search after two children were attacked by a coyote in separate incidents not far from one another on Sunday, Sept. 5, the third such case in about three weeks.

"No coyotes have been secured at this point since the attacks," Capt. Richard Flynn told YourArlington on Sept. 7.

Chief Julie Flaherty and Health and Human Services Director Christine Bongiorno reported the incidents Sept. 6. About 5:40 p.m., police responded to Epping Street, on Turkey Hill, for a report of a child bitten by a coyote. The 2-year-old female was in her yard when she was approached, bitten on the back and dragged by a coyote.

2nd incident

About 10 minutes later, police responded to Summer Hill Circle, off lower Washington Street, near the bikeway, for a report of another 2-year-old female, who was in her yard when the coyote approached and scratched her.

Officials believe that the same coyote was involved in both incidents. Officials searched the area in an effort to locate the coyote, and continue to work to keep track of coyote activity in the area.

In August, a  5-year-old boy at a Cutter Hill Road address had been playing in a sandbox when he was approached and bitten on the leg by a coyote. .

The incidents remain under investigation by the Arlington Police Department, Arlington Health and Human Services and the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

Questions for police

Before town officials provided the public with the story the next morning, that Sunday evening officers, including Capt. Flynn, tried to track down the culprit. He said officers searched the area between lower Washington Street and Summer Street in an effort to locate the coyote responsible for the attacks.

"This search continued until we lost daylight," he wrote. "We did encounter some people in the area and informed them of what had happened and what we were doing."

In response to comments on Facebook that officers had been posted at the playground near Buck Field and Hill's Hill and were warning residents to stay away, Flynn wrote: "Officers were searching the area mentioned above. They were not stationed there or elsewhere."

Asked about whether the Police Department has an estimate of the number of coyotes in Arlington this year, Flynn wrote: "The APD does not have a clear estimate of the number of coyotes in Arlington.

"We do have knowledge of several dens that have come to our knowledge from prior incidents/encounters. As you can imagine, this would be difficult data to obtain and would not include animals that travel back and from bordering communities. This question may be better directed to Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife."

YourArlington has reached out to Michael Huguenin, assistant director of wildlife, for that agency. He addressed the media Sept. 6 at Summer Hill Circle. He has not responded.

A broader look at the issue

In a broader look at the issue, The Boston Globe reported Sept. 8 that the attacks in Arlington "have sent a clear message that backyards, woods, and play areas, even in densely populated suburbs, are home to coyotes and other wild animals.

Wildlife experts told The Globe that coyotes, among the world’s most adaptable animals, have learned to live in urban environments. "And as they become more accustomed to their surroundings, and with plentiful amounts of discarded food, they can grow less fearful of their human neighbors," the report says.

"The best thing we can do is learn how to live with them," Elizabeth Magner, an animal advocacy specialist for the MSPCA, told The Globe.

State officials estimated to The Globe that as many as 11,500 coyotes live in Massachusetts, reported in every city and town on the mainland.

Four attacks have occurred in the state this year, including the three in Arlington. The fourth occurred Aug. 11, when a 3-year-old girl was bitten on Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown. The animal was shot and killed by rangers.

22 attacks since 1998

Since 1998, 22 coyote attacks that resulted in injuries have been reported in Massachusetts, Marion Larson, spokeswoman for the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, told The Globe.

Larson was quoted: "It all has to do with food and cover and shelter. "We need to clean up our act because we’re providing food, sometimes unknowingly, to a whole bunch of wildlife. We’ve got a trash management problem."

She noted that coyotes have a natural fear of people. She recommended yelling at them, directing a floodlight on them, dousing them with water or banging pots and pans together.

The coyote’s prey is typically small animals -- rodents, raccoons, skunks and the occasional household dog or cat. Why the coyotes in Arlington and Provincetown targeted young children is a mystery, Larson told The Globe.

The state does not cull the coyote population, but residents are permitted to hunt them with firearms or arrows from mid-October to early March. Over the last decade, between 400 and 750 coyotes have been harvested each year, state officials said.

One Arlington resident, posting on social media, called for others to join him in the hunt. 

Television interviews

“I really never imagined that the coyote would attack a kid, that’s, that’s horrible,” Haiariang Huang, one of the victim’s neighbors, told NBC10 Boston

Shawn Deshane, another one of the victim’s neighbors, told the TV station: “We heard a kid just screaming bloody murder like, at first it sounded like kids playing and we could hear it was just very loud, I mean a kid just screaming.”

“The parents were outside, too, right out in front, and heard the screech, of the little one, and that’s when they saw the coyote,” a third neighbor named Donna who said she witnessed the Summer Hill attack told the station. “She’s got a scratch on her little thigh, she wanted to show me her boo boo, but she’s doing fine.”

Near the Summer Hill Circle attack, a coyote was recently caught on camera by a home's security system, and another coyote was recently scared off by some dogs in the woods in between where the two attacks happened Sunday.

“It’s a little scary, honestly, we’ve got so many little kids in the neighborhood, we’ve got little babies and all that, kids running around, so yeah it’s a little frightening that there’s a coyote in the woods and around,” said another of the victim’s neighbors, Eric Mita.

MassWildlife and Environmental Police were combing the neighborhoods and the woods near where the attacks happened, looking for the coyote. They say it’s possibly the same animal that attacked a 5-year-old-boy less than a mile away three weeks ago.

How to stay safe

APD logoArlington Helath and Human Services wishes to share these tips from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for safely avoiding interactions with coyotes:

  • Never provide food for coyotes or do anything to attract them. Coyotes rely on natural food and typically remain wild and wary of humans.
  • Prevent coyotes from accessing food sources
  • Food, including snacks, pet food, birdseed and food-related trash, can attract coyotes and other wildlife. Left outside, these foods encourage wild animals to visit residential areas.
  • Only feed pets indoors and keep dumpster and trash areas clean, as well as keeping trash containers covered
  • Spend time outdoors. Coyotes generally try to avoid humans, and their natural fear is reinforced when play areas, back yards and trails are actively used by people. The regular presence of people is a deterrent for coyotes to visit.
  • Protect pets from coyotes. Although free roaming pets are more likely to be killed by automobiles than by wild animals, coyotes do view cats and small dogs as potential food, and larger dogs as competition. For the safety of your pets, keep them leashed and under your supervision at all times. Also remember to feed your pets indoors to avoid attracting wildlife.
  • If you encounter a coyote, Project Coyote recommends taking steps to scare it away — these steps are known as hazing:
    • Stand your ground: Make eye contact and advance toward the coyote while actively hazing until it retreats. Allow room for it to retreat.
    • Make sure the coyote is focused on you as a source of danger. Do not haze from a building or car where it can’t clearly see you.
    • Continue your hazing efforts, even if there is more than one coyote present.
    • Use multiple tools, such as loud sound, light and exaggerated motion.
    • Hazing should be exaggerated, assertive and consistent.
    • Coyotes have routine habits, so make note of when and where you encounter them. Ask your neighbors to assist in scaring them off.
    • If a coyote appears sick or injured, do not attempt to haze it.
    • Hazing should be avoided in the months of March through July, as well as if the coyote is a comfortable distance away, or if you encounter a coyote in an open area where a den may be nearby. You should haze a coyote if it approaches you, or if you see it comfortably walking in a neighborhood or park.
Gregg Tolly sent this brief security-camera video of a coyote
on the move, leaving his backyard on Dec 16, 2020,
near Florence and Wachusett.

For more information about remaining safe from coyotes, click here.

Residents who encounter coyotes should call police dispatch at 781-643-1212. 

This news announcement was published Monday, Sept. 6, 2021. The source of the information is a Sept. 6 news release from Alia Spring, who works for John Guilfoil Public Relations. It was updated the same day to correct the locations of the second incident Sunday and to add a photo. It was updated Sept. 7, to add TV accounts and police responses. Updated Sept. 9, to add Globe account and brief video.