Local wildlife on the move

Construction pushing animals into public eye

By on October 6, 2010

The howls, barks and yelps of wild animals are not noises one would expect to hear outside a residence hall bedroom window, but it seems that coyotes, bobcats, deer and wild turkeys are just a handful of the animal population that are getting closer to residents, including Quinnipiac students in Hamden.

“I never really was prepared to run into them,” Colleen Kelly, Quinnipiac senior and York Hill resident, said. “I saw a coyote wandering up here last year, it was definitely scary. I saw another one on New Road earlier this year, too.”

The development of numerous construction projects on York Hill and Whitney Avenue have pushed wildlife to areas where they are more likely to come into contact with anyone in the region, including students.

Lori Lindquist, park supervisor for Sleeping Giant State Park, confirmed that there are bobcats, black bears, deer, fisher cats and coyotes in the area around the park. Many of these species have been spotted on the mountain and are known to be predators of smaller animals.

“They’re not really aggressive toward humans and aren’t a huge concern,” Lindquist said. “If you don’t bother them they won’t usually bother you. But these species have been known to take small dogs or cats and, well, make a supper out of them.”

In Hamden and surrounding towns, there have been several reports of coyote sightings over the last few years. As for attacks on humans, a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman told the New Haven Register there were only two in-state incidents he knew of: a woman being attacked at a Branford rest stop in 2006, and an attack by a rabid coyote in Washington, Conn.

There is currently “no protocol,” according to Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan, for the treatment of a wild animal on campus. He said if there is a sighting, one should call campus security immediately.

The Hamden Police Department directed all questions concerning the wildlife population to the Animal Control Division, who could not be reached for comment. The Animal Control Department in Cheshire, however, has compiled a list of FAQ about what to do in the event of a wild animal sighting. They advise to call the authorities if there is a nocturnal animal wandering around during the day and leave the animal alone. Never approach a wild animal, day or night, or try to feed or touch it.

April Leler, an animal control officer for Cheshire County, confirmed sightings of bears, bobcats, fisher cats and coyotes all around the Cheshire area within the last six months. She mentioned several stories about bears raiding bird feeders and coming up on decks, even peeking in house windows in the region.

“They’re here. Bears need to be treated like big, giant raccoons,” Leler said. “Bobcats, on the other hand, are much more shy and there are fewer sightings of them.”

Leler said she had a recent call about a coyote incident. Two or three of the animals were chasing a German Shepherd, which was consequently trapped in its own yard due to an invisible fence which it was “too obedient” to cross. The owner, according to Leler, acted appropriately by banging pots and pans together to frighten the coyotes away.

“The DEP insists coyotes only get to be about 35 pounds, but I promise ours are bigger,” Leler said. She went on to say the wildlife in the area is not aggressive toward humans, but has become bolder as it has been pushed into more and more suburban areas and become more used to people.

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