People in the Greater Boston area are used to seeing bunnies, geese, turkeys and rats. But recently, encounters with bears have also made the news, and residents in Jamaica Plain were rattled last month when a coyote was spotted carrying off a small dog.
WBUR's Morning Edition host Rupa Shenoy spoke with Dave Wattles, biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, about whether large wildlife encounters are occurring more frequently and what people should do if they come across a coyote or bear.
Highlights from this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.
On bear and coyote populations in Greater Boston:
"With coyotes, we're probably about the same as we have been for the past decade or so. Some of the increase in sightings can be attributed to the increase in things like ring doorbells that are picking up a lot of coyote encounters that were happening in the middle of the night or while people were at work.
"The coyotes that are in Boston are resident there. They're born and raised in the city. The increase in bear sightings is definitely something that we have seen over the past handful of years. It's a result of our growing bear population getting closer to the greater Boston suburbs. And young males typically dispersing right into those suburbs."
On what brings wild animals to Boston suburbs:
"These animals are moving through our neighborhoods and our communities looking for food. Unfortunately, we provide a lot of food — every community in Massachusetts does, around our homes and our businesses.
"Coyotes and bears are very smart animals and they've learned that the best place to find food is in our backyards and close to our homes."
On what to do if you encounter a bear:
"It's important to remember that a bear is a large and powerful animal. We encourage people to give the animal space — do not try to get closer, to take a photo, and do not follow it to see where it's going. Just let it kind of wander through."
On what to do if you encounter a coyote:
"We have three main tips for coyotes.
"[First is] removing and securing food around your home so you're not drawing them in. [Second is] Aggressively hazing coyotes when you see them — making loud noises, or physically chasing the coyote out of your yard, throwing small objects at it so it's not comfortable coming around your home.
"And then, most importantly, protecting your pets. By far the most serious form of conflict we have with coyotes [is when they attack pets.] Unfortunately, coyotes can't distinguish between our pets and any other wild animal. They see cats and small dogs as potential prey animals.
"[As for] larger dogs, they actually interpret them the way they would another coyote in their territory, and [that's why] we can see aggression towards them — they won't tolerate other coyotes in their territory. Coyotes can be aggressive even to dogs as large as labs or shepherds as a result of that."
This segment aired on September 19, 2023.