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More than 100 debate killing coyotes in Wheaton
Issue pits animal cruelty vs. safety
By Robert Sanchez | Daily Herald Staff

Wheaton officials are expected to meet Wednesday with a licensed trapper to discuss how to implement a citywide effort to capture and euthanize coyotes. On Tuesday, more than 100 residents publicly voiced their views on the plan.

 

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Published: 2/17/2010 12:01 AM

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So far, Wheaton remains committed to a plan to cull the city's coyote population.

But as officials are planning to meet today with a licensed trapper, residents are divided on whether a citywide effort to capture and euthanize coyotes is necessary.

More than 100 people - both culling supporters and opponents - packed city hall Tuesday night to weigh in on the controversial decision the city council made last week.

And Councilman John Prendiville, who voted against hiring a trapper, asked fellow council members to reconsider the coyote culling program.

"If a particular animal attacks or actively threatens humans, I would take action against that animal," Prendiville said. "But I can't support the pre-emptive killing of wild animals to protect pets. Revenge for the death of a pet is not sufficient reason for killing coyotes."

No action was taken on Prendiville's suggestion that Wheaton simply step up efforts to educate residents on how to coexist with coyotes. The city's Web site already offers a list of tips, including advice to never feed or get close to coyotes.

Other Wheaton officials counter that despite efforts to educate the public, the coyote problem has reached "a nuisance level" in the city.

Resident Annette Corrigan said she has seen a dramatic increase in the number of coyotes in her neighborhood on the south side of town.

"Since October, coyotes are in my backyard every single day," Corrigan said Tuesday. "They are in my neighbor's yard. They are all over the place."

And the coyotes are becoming bolder - so bold that Corrigan's children are becoming fearful of playing outside. Even elementary schools are limiting outdoor activities because of frequent coyote sightings, officials said.

Meanwhile, pet owners are worried because of a string of deadly attacks on cats and dogs, including the Jan. 27 attack on a small dog while it was in the backyard of its owner's home on the 1500 block of Camden Place.

"We have a reasonable fear for our beloved pets and our children," Corrigan said. "We are not hysterical, and we are not exaggerating this problem."

Resident Gloria DeLuco said it upsets her that family pets have been killed. Still, she said, she was "shocked and disappointed" to learn about the city's culling proposal.

She and others said the city needs to continue encouraging residents to keep an eye on small pets, cover garbage cans and store pet food indoors.

"I, for one, ask you to use my tax dollars for humane methods of animal control," DeLuco told council members, "and an awareness program that makes each pet owner responsible for their pets."

Resident Debbe Mueller agrees that education is key. "Studies show the more a person understands coyotes, the more positive they feel about coyotes," she said.

Some say indiscriminate trapping and killing of coyotes is ineffective in reducing coyote populations. That's because removing one coyote only creates a vacancy that allows another coyote to move in.

Still, experts agree that removal is an option if coyotes are causing significant problems, like attacking pets.

While talking about capturing and euthanizing coyotes isn't pleasant, Councilman Phil Suess said the city has a problem that must be addressed.

"It is just not acceptable if you're a homeowner and you do not have the use of your backyard because animals are coming to your door every day looking for your dog," he said. "That is a problem. I think we're taking actions to address that."

Coyotes: Councilman says problem must be addressed