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Grand Island coyote-trapping debate is over, but the coyotes remain

It was over a year ago, at the end of October in 2015, when Grand Island residents Nicole Gerber and David Reilly found leghold coyote traps on public land near their posted property.

After seven months of often-heated discussions, the Grand Island Town Board eventually adopted a local law,  a compromise that severely limits trapping on public land to a few restricted areas off of Whitehaven Road. But the law did not wholly end the practice of trapping on town land: Trapping and hunting is also allowed on private property.

Gerber and Reilly, who founded the Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment, would like to see the practice of trapping end, but in the meantime they want to educate the public on non-lethal solutions to deal with coyotes.

"Coexisting with Coyotes," will feature a presentation and discussion by Lesley Sampson, an internationally known coyote expert and co-founder of Coyote Watch Canada, from 6 to 8 p.m. March 22 at the Huth Elementary School, 1773 Huth Road. The free program is presented by the Citizen Coalition and co-sponsored by Animal Advocates of Western New York.

Reilly said he doesn't believe the issue of trapping coyotes on town-owned lands has been concluded. He said trapping has been substantially limited, from hundreds of sites to just two sites, but there is the possibility that it could be expanded. Reilly said a second concern is the public's attitude on coyotes, which fuels the pro-trapping arguments.

He said one person could set up to 100 traps a year, enough to change the island's ecosystem.

"Coyotes are an essential species," said Reilly. He said the coyote eat the voles, mice and rabbits that can also be a nuisance. Mice can also carry Lyme Disease, according to the National Science Foundation.

Gerber said they found there was a lot of misinformation that contributed to fears regarding coyotes and other wildlife.

At the presentation, Lesley will present non-lethal solutions for human-wildlife interactions and proven coyote-hazing techniques to shoo away the animals when they come to close too homes.

"People don't realize what they are doing to bring the animals into their yards," added Gerber. "When we lose our habitat through development – all across Western New York – the animals are going to be forced into your yards."

She said caution is still warranted, especially if you have small animals that could fall prey to coyotes, but non-lethal solutions such as yelling or banging pots can be enough to scare away  coyotes away.

Reilly said the presentation on Wednesday will help people to minimize their risks of encountering a coyote, while also giving them tips on what to do if they encounter one.

"They truly are a beautiful species that we should appreciate," said Gerber.

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