The majority of the Riverside Village Board, led by Village President Ben Sells, is not interested in shooting any coyotes.
Last week the village board, without a formal vote, rejected a recommendation from police Chief Thomas Weitzel that the village hire an expert to shoot coyotes roaming around the village, especially sick coyotes. In his memo to the village board Weitzel said the village had received 236 reports of coyote sightings in Riverside this year.
But Sells does not think shooting coyotes is the solution. He blamed residents for leaving food out and feeding coyotes and thus attracting them to Riverside.
“I think, at this point, the case has not been made to start shooting at them in our village,” Sells said at the Dec. 5 village board meeting. “There is no evidence that I’ve read that absent widespread culling of a coyote population that this is going to have any impact whatsoever on the number of coyotes in Riverside.”
Trustee Patricia Collins agreed with Sells saying that even coyotes stricken with sarcoptic mange, a disease that causes a loss of fur and open sores, should not be shot.
“If I could get it into the vet and have it given a shot and put down, I would do that, but I don’t want someone with a rifle in my front yard shooting them,” Collins said.
Trustees Ellen Hamilton and Jean Sussman favored shooting coyotes with sarcoptic mange. Trustee Michael Foley had previously expressed support for that idea.
“I’ve seen animals with mange and they are completely uncomfortable,” Hamilton said. “Their skin’s on fire. They are scratching all the time. They are completely uncomfortable. They’re definitely in pain.”
But Sells said that sarcoptic mange poses no danger to humans and little danger to pets. Sells said that for a dog to catch sarcoptic mange from a coyote there would have to be direct contract between the dog and a stricken coyote for about six hours.
“From my reading there has been no correlation between sarcoptic mange and any kind of increased danger to either humans or to pets,” Sells said. “Absent direct contact it’s unlikely the mange could be transferred. I’m reluctant for us living in an urban forest to start to try to manage all forms of wildlife because we are projecting upon them some perceived suffering. We don’t know that.”
Sells supported continuing the current policy of hazing coyotes, essentially making a lot of noise when they are around, to scare them away.
“It is uniformly agreed that hazing is the proper solution to urban coyotes,” Sells said.
Weitzel said this week that he will be purchasing air horns for his officers so that if they come across a coyote in town they can blow the horn and scare the coyote off.
Sells said that residents must stop leaving food out and feeding coyotes.
“The problem that we’re having with coyotes in this village is because people are feeding the coyotes,” Sells said. “They are coming here because of the stable food source. The reason they are getting acclimated to humans is because we are allowing them to get acclimated to humans.”
Sells advocated increasing the fine for feeding wild animals from the current $35.
Village Manager Peter Scalera agreed.
“I do feel that the fine is too low, yes it needs to be increased,” Scalera said.
Scalera also said that there must be more public education about not feeding wild
Weitzel and Scalera are reaching out to the Humane Society and others and the village will be putting on a workshop next year to educate residents on how to discourage coyotes from coming into town.
“We probably haven’t been effective in getting the message out that we do have a policy in place,” Scalera said. “A stronger educational effort is needed.”
The village’s hazing policy is posted on the village website. Weitzel said that the hazing suggestions may be put back on the web site’s home page.
“There is so much more that can be done prior to this extreme step of starting to trap and shoot animals within our village limits,” Sells said. “It is quite clear to me that the public education process has not been successful to this point.”