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Coyote spotted on Boston Common and killed by officials

A 25-pound female coyote in Boston had mange, a condition marked by rawness from heavy scratching. Officers decided it might attack a person or pet and shot the coyote. A 25-pound female coyote in Boston had mange, a condition marked by rawness from heavy scratching. Officers decided it might attack a person or pet and shot the coyote.
By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / January 17, 2011

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A coyote was shot and killed yesterday morning near Louisburg Square on Beacon Hill, after police determined it was suffering from a painful skin condition and may have presented a threat to public safety, authorities said.

Boston police first spotted the roughly 25-pound female coyote on the Boston Common near Frog Pond and called Massachusetts Environmental Police for assistance at about 10 a.m., said Environmental Police Lieutenant Gary Duncan.

Boston officers pursued the animal and had it cornered in an alley near 38 Pinckney St., Duncan said, when environmental police arrived on the scene.

Duncan said the coyote had mange, a condition marked by rawness from heavy scratching, on its left side. Based on that, he said, officers decided there was a danger it might attack a person or a pet.

“We had no complaints, but if we had let her out we thought that this could happen, and we just weren’t going to allow it, [to protect] public safety.’’

The coyote was shot once with a service weapon, according to Duncan.

Chris Hayward, 40, who lives on Pinckney Street, said that when he saw a “caravan’’ of police vehicles on the street, he thought a certain neighborhood resident who commutes frequently to Washington, D.C., had returned.

“I said, is [US Senator John] Kerry in town, or what?’’

Hayward seemed shocked to discover what had attracted the police attention.

“Oh, geez,’’ he said. “What the [heck’s] a coyote doing around here? How bizarre is that?’’

While Hayward and other residents were surprised that a coyote had ventured into their urban neighborhood, coyote sightings in the city are not uncommon, according to Duncan, a 31-year veteran of the environmental unit.

“It’s all over, believe it or not,’’ he said, adding that in the past few months, environmental police have responded to sightings near schools and other locales in neighborhoods including East Boston and South Boston.

A few years ago, he said, authorities had to euthanize a coyote that had been attacking dogs on Carson Beach.

But in most cases, Duncan said, euthanasia is not necessary, unless the animal is injured or sick.

Authorities usually advise callers not to go near a coyote and the animal will eventually return from where it came, which Duncan said could be “anyplace.’’

He said the number reported coyote sightings have increased in recent years.

“I think it’s just that people are nervous because it’s a wild animal,’’ Duncan said. The presence of coyotes was documented in the state by 1957, according to the Massachusetts Audubon Society. They are adaptable and can survive in the forests and fields of rural Massachusetts as well as the suburbs of Boston, according to the society’s website.

Last February, a severely injured coyote was tranquilized and then euthanized after it was spotted limping through the streets of Dorchester.

In June, Brookline resident Paul Snover told the Globe he had seen several coyotes in and around his neighborhood in the preceding year. “That was the scariest one, at 8 a.m., while the sun was up, where Cushing [Road] meets with Milton [Road],’’ Snover said. “It was stalking my cat.’’

Yesterday on Pinckney Street, a young couple also expressed concern for their pets.

Neighborhood resident Frank Biscardi, 21, said he was walking his husky, Balto, in the morning when he saw the police on Pinckney.

“Thank God we weren’t out here with the little dog,’’ he said, referring to a Jack Russell terrier named Brooklyn that belongs to him and his girlfriend, Colleen Daniels, 22.

“Oh, my God,’’ said Daniels. “I just can’t believe it.’’

Pet owners may also find it hard to believe that coyotes would stake out their homes, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.

But it can happen, according to Duncan.

“They can watch your house, and if you put your pet out at 6 o’clock every day and they want that pet, they’d be there at 6 o’clock to grab that pet,’’ he said. “They’re a creature of habit.’’

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.

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