PORTSMOUTH — You better not throw bread out for the birds anymore. It just might cost you.
In hopes of stemming the increasing presence of coyotes near local homes, the town Monday night became the second municipality in the state to outlaw the feeding of non-domesticated animals. The Town Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance similar to one already adopted in Middletown that bans the feeding of coyotes.
The action was taken on the advice of Numi Mitchell, lead scientist for the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study. Along with the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Ms. Mitchell has been tracking the movement of coyotes on Aquidneck Island, including the large “South Portsmouth Pack” particularly in neighborhoods like Carriage Drive near St. Mary’s Pond.
Ms. Mitchell said the ordinance will go a long way in reducing the visibility and boldness of coyotes, which has been an increasing problem in town.
“If the puppies aren’t fed this spring, they’re not going to be bold in the fall,” she said. “Don’t leave the food out. If people really do this, there will be a huge change by November.”
The ordinance states that “No person shall knowingly feed or in any manner provide an attractant to coyotes or other non-domesticated animals.”
Failure to comply is punishable by a fine of not more than $50 for each day of the violation. Police and/or the animal control officer are in charge of enforcing the rule.
Under the ordinance, it’s OK to feed pets outdoors as long as they eat all the food immediately, the remaining food is removed when the animal is finished eating, or the pet is fed in a secure cage or other enclosure. No one may knowingly leave, store or maintain food or attractant in a place accessible to coyotes or other non-domesticated animals.
Also exempt is the outdoor feeding of farm animals, within certain guidelines as specified in the ordinance.
The ordinance doesn’t prohibit the feeding of birds, but residents must use an elevated feeder that’s inaccessible to coyotes and located within 100 feet of a home. You are no longer allowed to throw bread or other food for birds on the ground.
Ms. Mitchell said that alone can reduce the aggressiveness of coyotes. She recalled the time she received a complaint about a man feeding birds on Bailey Avenue in Middletown late in the afternoon — when coyotes start to become more active. After a cordial conversation with the man, he agreed to stop throwing bread out and the coyotes ceased to be a problem in that area, she said.
The ordinance, which takes effect immediately, was passed unanimously.
“While this will not eradicate coyotes, it’s certainly the first step,” said John Blaess, council vice-president.