WESTPORT—Residents are looking to quell the rise in coyote sightings by proposing to allow the trapping and removal of coyotes and coyote/wolf hybrids in town.

Signed by 30 electors and petitioned by resident Arthur Buckman, the initiative is in response to growing concerns about pet and child safety in the wake of a recent incident where a coyote killed a 40-lb dog on Charcoal Hill Road. There have been other close encounters, Buckman said. “Because of those instances, and we have kids on our streets, it seems to be getting worse and we learned that Westport is the only town in Connecticut that doesn’t allow trapping of wild animals,” he said.

Although a part of life in Westport for years, Buckman, who lives on North Ridge Road, said the number of coyotes have reached a breaking point for him and his neighbors.

“Coyotes have been in our neighborhood (near Coleytown Middle School) in Westport for years and it hasn’t been an issue until recently. The number of sightings, the frequency of the sightings have been increasing in the last couple of years, but dramatically increasing in the last eight months,” Buckman said.

Buckman’s neighbor, Barry Raifaisen, has been living on the street since 1995 and never had an issue with coyotes until last summer when his 35-lb Wheaten Terrier was attacked in his backyard by one. After he let the dog out, Raifaisen heard screams and ran out where he found his dog had suffered 18 puncture wounds and was bleeding. He took the dog to the veterinarian in Norwalk and it survived, but Raifaisen said he is very concerned about the safety of children and pets until trapping is allowed.

The change would permit hunting, but only for a licensed trapper to trap and remove the coyotes.

“It’s not hunting. I don’t not want to see people using guns for hunting. But I would like to have the opportunity for people who are having serious coyote problems to be able to trap,” Buckman said.

The Humane Society of the United States maintains that “trapping is inhumane,” as the most common devices used to trap coyotes are leghold traps, and neck snares, both of which can cause severe pain and injuries. The traps could also capture pets and other unitended targets.

At a Feb. 13 information session on coyotes, Laura Simon, a wildlife ecologist who spent years working for the U.S. Humane Society said that every year, nationwide, there are less than 10 coyote bites of humans, compared to 4.7 million dog bites.

Despite not posing a huge threat to humans, Buckman said that the coyotes and coyote/wolf hybrids in his neighborhood are the size of a German Shepherd dog and are much larger than the average 25-35-pound coyote.

Others believe measures should be taken before allowing the trapping of coyotes. Speaking as a private citizen, Third Selectwoman Helen Garten said, “I believe we should keep our ordinance intact. I think we’re on our way to figuring out how to deal with our coyote problems. We’ve learned a lot of information on how to resolve these conflicts at the Feb. 13 information session and I think we think we should try that first.”

Hazing, a recommended method to get coyotes out of an area, hasn’t worked, Buckman said. According to the Humane Society, hazing uses deterrents to move an animal out of an area or discourages an undesirable behavior or activity. Examples of hazing consist of: yelling and waving one’s arms, using noisemakers like whistles or bells, using projectiles like sticks and rocks and other repellents like hoses and water guns. Making oneself loud and large is crucial to deterring a coyote.

“Our kids are nervous about the coyotes and even adults walking their dogs are nervous,” Buckman said. “God forbid something happens to a child. Why wait until that?”

The item will be added to a future RTM meeting agenda.

@chrismmarquette; cmarquette@bcnnew.com