What brushes have you had with wildlife?
Bears, raccoons, and now coyotes are becoming a part of the backdrop of the state.

Or perhaps they’ve always been there. It’s us who are new to them.

Either way, coexisting will be a challenge; especially for us not used to seeing them.

Especially the coyote, which many of us have the impression they’re either small dogs or they live in the confines of Warner Brother’s cartoons. (Beep Beep!)

Coyote sightings in Upper Township, along with reports of missing cats and injured dogs, have local and state officials warning residents to be cautious.

There have been several reports of coyotes in the township in the past few months, according to Mayor Richard Palombo. These are not the first cases of coyotes in Upper, but the number of sightings this year is much higher than normal, he said.

Andrew Burnett, a wildlife biologist with the state Division of Fish and Wildlife who oversees the state's coyote efforts says that coyotes live mainly in wooded areas and eat plants and small animals, such as rodents. He said coyotes instinctively avoid humans.

But with summer bringing warm weather, Palombo is urging residents to be aware of all wild animals when doing outdoor activities. People should stay away from all animals, since they may carry rabies or pose other dangers.

In 2007, there were separate incidents involving a 22-month-old and a 5-year-old who were attacked in Middletown,. These are the only two documented attacks by coyotes against humans in New Jersey. The children were not seriously injured.

Upper Township Deputy Mayor Curtis Corson said his 18-pound Jack Russell terrier was killed by a coyote in the wooded area behind his Seaville home last summer. He said he had seen coyotes on his property but did not think such an attack could occur.

The deputy mayor said he traps coyotes on his property and has killed six of them. The state allowed coyote trapping in 1980 and hunting in 1997.

A coyote was spotted roaming through Scotch Plains last night, state officials said today.

A call came into the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife last night reporting a coyote in Scotch Plains, biologist Al Ivany confirmed, though he did not know the location of the sighting.

Ivany said that though coyotes are secretive and generally wary of humans, their presence has been increasingly common in the Garden State.

“The population is 3,000 to 6,000 statewide, so it’s not uncommon for them to be seen all over,” he said.

Ivany said that although coyotes have been known to attack pets and even humans from time to time, they will generally steer clear of areas that don’t have easily scavenged food.

He encouraged people who encounter aggressive coyotes to contact local police and the DFW at 908-735-8793; outside of normal business hours, call the DEP Hotline at 877-WARN-DEP.

“But if it’s just a sighting, an animal moving on its way, it shouldn’t be an issue,” Ivany said.

Ivany also recommended that residents visit the DFW’s coyote information page.
Eastern coyotes, the type commonly found in New Jersey, are wild members of the dog family, and closely resemble small German shepherds with the exception of their long snouts and bushy tails, according to the DFW. They can be identified from a distance because they keep their tail below a horizontal position when standing, walking and running.

Coyotes primarily hunt rodents and rabbits for food, but will take advantage of whatever is available, including garbage, pet food and domestic animals that are left unattended, the DFW warns.

Coyotes are generally wary of humans, according to the DFW, but their behavior can change given access to human food and garbage, causing them to lose caution and fear.

In order to keep yourself and your pets safe, the DFW offers these tips to reduce the likelihood of a conflict with a coyote:

• Never feed a coyote.

• Feeding pets or feral cats outdoors can attract coyotes. The coyotes feed on the pet food and also prey on the cats.

• Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.

• Remove sources of water, especially in dry climates.

• Bring pets in at night.

• Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting rodents and other coyote prey.

• Provide secure enclosures for rabbits, poultry, and other farm animals.

• Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.

• Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.

• Clear brush and dense weeds from around dwellings; this reduces protective cover for coyotes and makes the area less attractive to rodents and rabbits.

• If coyotes are present, make sure they know they're not welcome. Make loud noises, blast a canned air siren, throw rocks, or spray them with a garden hose.

And by all means, if you do see one, call the state Division of Fish and Wildlife at 908-735-7288.

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