Hampton Plays Host to Coyotes, Fisher Cats
By Nancy Rineman
Atlantic News , February 17, 2000
HAMPTON -- Development in southern New Hampshire has occurred to such an extent that the natural habitat of area wildlife has been destroyed, and Hampton is one of the urban areas the displaced species are calling home.
Pete MacKinnon, Hampton's animal control officer, appeared before the Hampton board of selectmen Monday night to update the public with regard to recent concern over the increase in coyotes and possibly fisher cats in the Seacoast area. MacKinnon said that southern New Hampshire and all of New England have experienced a rise in numbers regarding these species, marking a significant change in the area over the past 20 years.
MacKinnon, who was joined by Conservation Officer Tim McClare of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, said several indicators reveal the presence of coyote in the area, as animals such as woodchucks, once a common scene on local golf courses, have been virtually eliminated. Occasionally, MacKinnon said, coyotes take a cat.
"If you want to own a domestic cat, you have to worry," MacKinnon told the public. "An indoor/outdoor cat at night is subject to harm." MacKinnon called coyotes "opportunists," eating anything they can. With cats providing an easy target, MacKinnon said the presence of coyotes in the Seacoast area forces adjustments to be made by pet owners, who must be more responsible about keeping their cats inside.
MacKinnon said previous problems with feral cats around Hampton no longer exist, thanks to the coyote. And the concept of the traditional "barn cat," is also a thing of the past, with the decline of barns in southern New Hampshire.
Areas with reported sightings of coyotes include Winnacunnet Road, Penniman Lane, and Towle Farm Road, where one environmentalist also reported seeing a mountain lion. MacKinnon said coyotes cannot be controlled, despite numerous attempts to do so. While some severe methods, such as poisoning, have been tried, MacKinnon claims that the more the coyote is pursued, the larger their litters.
Other abundant local wildlife include skunk (most often responsible for spreading rabies), and raccoons, which do quite well around people, MacKinnon said. The largest problem Hampton's animal control officer has encountered lately is a good number of possums, a situation which exists statewide, he added. Two or three possums a week are found in dumpsters, MacKinnon said.
An increasing number of deer are attracted to residential areas as their habitat disappears, and homeowners may witness first hand the damage done to ornamental plants. Another household pest has become the flying squirrel, MacKinnon said, a result of people cutting down dead trees which house "a lot of animals." The squirrels then take to the roofs of homes for their nesting spots.
MacKinnon advised the public to be aware, but not overly concerned. While coyotes. favor fruit and plants, hunger may cause them to pursue a cat, but the last thing a coyote wants is to be near people, he said.
MacKinnon repeated what he considered the biggest problem caused by coyotes inhabiting Hampton.
"If you own a cat, ownership has changed," he said. MacKinnon stressed the need to restrain cats by keeping them indoors as the only solution to keeping those pets safe.
McClare agreed that the coyotes posed no threat to humans, but rather were a species native to the area that are just now moving back. MacKinnon, who offered to do tracking for residents who believe they have coyotes near them; said the animals travel in packs of three, five or seven members, and may be heard "yipping" and "yapping" to one another.
Anyone seeing or hearing what appears to be coyotes, or with concerns about other wildlife situations should contact the animal control officer by calling the Hampton police department at 929-4444.