(NECN: Amy Sinclair) - Wildlife biologists have fielded dozens of calls from a Biddeford, Maine neighborhood in recent weeks because of an increase in coyote sightings
Because of the sightings, city leaders, neighbors and biologists will meet this Thursday to address concerns about these carnivorous neighbors.
"I've seen packs of seven of them running across the yard, not scared of people," says Biddeford resident John Dumoulin.
What concerns him and many others in the densely populated neighborhood off South Street is that the wild animals seem to have lost their fear of humans.
"I wasn't that concerned until kids at the bus stop started seeing them in the morning, and again on the way home in the afternoon," says mother of three Erin Behen.
Some neighbors want the coyotes to be trapped or relocated.
"I'd like to see them gone," says Dumoulin.
But city manager John Bubier want to take a more measured approach. He says the coyotes have been living in the woods by the neighborhood for 25 or 30 years without incident.
"The focus should be on education," he says.
With that in mind, they've invited Geri Vistein, a wildlife biologist who specializes in coyotes to speak at the meeting. She says people react to the presence of these carnivorous animals with fear, because they don't understand their behavior.
"Just because a coyote is present doesn't mean that they're going to do anything to children," says Vistein.
She says she suspects the reason for the increase in coyote sightings is that immature coyotes haven't yet learned to keep their distance from humans.
She says they can be trained to stay out of peoples yards using a method called hazing, in which people make loud noises when the animals get too close.
"Hazing is a way of creating fear in coyotes to let them know we don't want you here .. and we'll have training sessions for the neighbors," Vistein said.
The goal for these suburban neighbors, says Vistein, should be peaceful coexistence and mutual respect, provided its from a safe distance.