Recently, Brenda Celona was walking her dog near Speck Field in the Twin Oaks area when she saw a large coyote run through the park.
The animal ran from Cottage Street, through the park and into the woods near the pond.
The same creature has been seen by several other neighbors, including one who saw it last Wednesday at 4 p.m. and another who saw one last month running through the park with a cat in its mouth.
"I saw it myself just now at 10:30 a.m. and I am in complete shock."
But according to an expert from the state Department of Environmental Management, the prevalence of coyotes in Rhode Island continues to increase and they're making the rounds across the entire state, including in urban areas.
"Coyotes are very adaptable," said Charlie Brown, a DEM wildlife biologist. "You'll find them in the most urban of places."
There are likely thousands of coyotes living in Rhode Island and they first started showing up in the mid 1960s, according to archived accounts. The migration is part of a larger expansion of coyote territory beginning in the 1930s, due in part to the eradication of many wolf species from the area. Those disappearing wolves opened up lots of territory for coyotes to exploit. And exploit they have.
Coyotes are grassland creatures who normally weren't found much beyond the prairie region. Along with fewer wolves, human activity has caused more deforestation, converting many wooded areas into more suitable habitats for coyotes.
Since they are versatile and adaptable creatures, coyotes can thrive in urban areas. In the Twin Oaks area, there is a small amount open space, numerous scavenging opportunities and two bodies of water nearby. That's enough for a family unit to establish a local foothold.
"What they're doing in an urban area might be too much for people's tolerance level," Brown said. "We get a good number of calls from people reporting them or saying 'my cat is missing' or asking for more information."
The DEM does not typically trap or remove coyotes unless there is some type of circumstance that calls for action, such as a sick animal or one demonstrating aggressive behavior.
Coyotes can and will eat cats and small animals. It's something that people just have to be aware of, Brown said.
"Unless you live on Block Island, you can assume they're coyotes in your town," Brown said.
The DEM advises people to eliminate food sources around their home to reduce the chance of coyote encounters. And if you're concerned about your pets, keep them indoors, since a coyote will not distinguish between a domesticated pet and a wild animal.
Population reduction measures have generally failed to make a lasting impact and are costly, according to the DEM. A fact sheet states: "Coyotes have been part of Rhode Island’s fauna for over thirty years and are an important natural resource and component of the ecosystem. All indications are that they will continue to be part of our fauna for a long time to come."
There is only one confirmed Rhode Island coyote bite and that was the result of an attempt to hand-feed the animal, according to the DEM.
Coyotes tend to run from humans. One way to assert your dominance and to discourage them from using your yard as a shortcut is to shout or spray them with a high pressure garden hose.
For more about coyotes, check out the DEM's Web site.