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Tracking Belmont's coyotes -- by laptop

Posted by Derek McLean  July 15, 2011 06:13 PM

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Wonder whether coyotes are roaming your neighborhood? Belmont has launched a new online tool that lets residents post sightings of coyotes around town.

The tool, developed by a small Arlington-based company, PeopleGIS Inc., has registered nearly 30 coyote sightings since it was put into use in May.

“It is to get the general public engaged,’’ said John Maguranis, Belmont’s animal control officer. ‘‘There is just so much media hype about them, so much misunderstanding about them, that this is just one way to get people a little bit involved.’’

On the website, people can place a marker on a map or type in the address of where and when they saw a coyote. There is room on the site for comments to create an interactive discussion forum. Each coyote sighting shows up on the map with its date and time.

Maguranis has been studying coyotes for nearly 20 years and has followed new advances in tracking coyotes throughout the country. “I haven’t heard of anyone, anywhere in the country doing this,” he said.

For residents moving into the town or into a new neighborhood, the program will show where coyote activity has been. “If they have a cat and they want to let it out, they can go in there and get a little bit of an idea of whether there has been any coyote activity in that area,” he said.

Maguranis said getting people involved in the tracking process allays their fears and allows them to become more comfortable with the idea that there are coyotes in the area.

Maguranis and Todd Consentino, Belmont’s GIS and database administrator, used the PeopleGIS software to build the program. Belmont has used the company’s technology to build various applications in the past.

“With our software, he was able to come up with an idea that allows the public to spot and site the coyote and then go to the form on the website,” said Jeff Teitelbaum, Business Developer for PeopleGIS.

Teitelbaum said other towns in the area are now following the program’s design to track other animals such as white-tailed deer and red-tailed hawks.

No one knows how exactly many coyotes reside in Belmont, but Maguranis doesn’t think there is enough land in town for more than three active families of coyotes at one time. Coyote families can have up to a dozen members.


Maguranis said that killing coyotes has shown to be an ineffective way to lower their population in an area. The better solution is to learn to coexist with them, he said. “We will never get rid of coyotes. When the world ends there will be cockroaches and coyotes,” he said.

“We need to keep the coyotes aware that we are the top apex predator around and they need to be afraid of us,” he said. “If you see a coyote take a moment to look at them and enjoy them, they are beautiful animals. Then challenge them.”

The national organization Project Coyote has expressed interest in Belmont’s program and would like to showcase it on their website.

Maguranis said he will continue to educate and spread the word about the program to continue its success.

Derek McLean can be reached at dbmclean1@gmail.com.

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