A series of coyote traps set up near the popular Greenbelt trails in Cape Elizabeth has alarmed some residents who question whether the practice is necessary and humane. 

But a local farmer says something had to be done to control a large group of coyotes, saying the pack is becoming increasingly brazen and poses a safety threat to animals and young children on her farm.

A male Eastern coyote in Amity in 2003. Biologists believe there are around 15,000 coyotes in Maine. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

“There’s been quite a problem here in Cape Elizabeth in the last couple years,” said Caitlin Jordan, who owns Alewive’s Brook Farm, where trapping began about a week ago. “The reality is some people disagree with trapping and hunting in general. I’m not sure they realize how large the coyote pack is and how large the coyotes are becoming.”

In the recent Greenbelt Gazette newsletter, the town cautioned trail users to keep their dogs on the path – using leashes if necessary – because traps had been set up on private property that abuts the Great Pond Trails. There are no traps on town property, Town Manager Matthew Sturgis said.

When that warning was shared in a local Facebook group, residents questioned why killing coyotes was necessary and whether trapping was humane. Several people said they would reconsider whether they will support the farm’s business.

Jordan said the traps they’re using on the farm are not hurting the animals and just hold them in place. Her dog’s foot got stuck in one recently when they were out harvesting kale and “she just sat there and waited for me to let her out of the trap,” she said.


Geri Vistein, a biologist and coyote advocate from Belfast who travels the state talking to people about coyotes, was not surprised some people had such a strong reaction. She said she has given talks in Cape Elizabeth about how to coexist with coyotes.

“People are very, very much against (trapping). In deer season, traditional hunters go out and kill deer humanely. It’s not suffering for a period of time,” she said.

Conflicts between humans and coyotes are not unheard of in Maine, particularly in suburban areas where housing development has pushed into coyote habitat and people may not expect to see wildlife.

Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Paul Fenton said people sometimes call the department after spotting a coyote, often while walking on trails. If the animal is seen during the day or if it seems approachable in a way that it shouldn’t, the animal control officer will try to check on it, he said.

People have called in this week to report a coyote walking around with what appeared to be part of a trap on its leg, Fenton said. But an animal control officer and game wardens have been unable to find it.



The Eastern coyote expanded its range into Maine in the 1930s and now occupies almost every habitat type, from open farmland to suburban areas, according to the state’s wildlife and fisheries department. Biologists estimate there are around 15,000 coyotes living in Maine. Each year, 1,200 to 1,500 are killed by trappers who sell their fur. The state does not track the number of coyotes that are hunted because there is an open season and no permit is required.

Coyotes tend to hunt for small animals, such as snowshoe hares, mice, woodchucks, beavers, squirrels and birds. But they also are scavengers and will eat garbage, garden crops, livestock, poultry and pet food left outside. Most of their hunting is done at night, but it is not uncommon for them to be out during the day.

Scott Lindsay, a regional wildlife biologist for the state, said coyotes are found throughout the coastal towns of southern Maine. He regularly gets calls from people in Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough who are surprised to see coyotes in their yards. Sometimes they report that a coyote has targeted their chickens.

Coyotes generally avoid people, Lindsay said, but there have been legitimate problems, most often in areas where people have either intentionally or inadvertently provided a food source that coyotes become used to, causing them to lose their fear of humans.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issued a depredation permit for coyote predator control at Alewive’s Brook Farm. Depredation permits, which allow the killing of wild animals, are issued for a variety of species after an assessment determines there is damage to crops or livestock, said Mark Latti, a spokesperson for the department.



Jordan said there have been concerns about the coyotes on and around the farm for the past couple of years. With livestock and five children under the age of 5 on the farm, their presence has become more of a danger, she said.

“They’re getting more and more brazen,” she said. “They’re having no trouble walking around the farm in daylight hours.”

Hunters have tried unsuccessfully to shoot the coyotes, which also required a depredation permit from the state because Cape Elizabeth does not allow firearms to be discharged in most areas of town. As the trappers prepared to start their work this year, Jordan notified the town because she wanted to make sure anyone using the Greenbelt would keep their dogs on the trail.

Lindsay said trappers no longer use steel tooth traps and now use padded ones that don’t hurt the animal. Wildlife biologists use the same traps for research purposes, he said.

Jordan has seen online comments accusing local trappers of using painful traps, but disputes their accuracy.

“We’re trying to make it so we can all live here happily,” she said. “The coyote population needs to be brought into control.”


Vistein, the coyote advocate, said she has worked with farmers to better understand coyotes. Many of those farmers successfully used other means to deter coyotes like keeping chickens inside electric fencing, having guard dogs, and using noise and flashing lights to scare off predators. In turn, coyotes keep rodents under control and stop deer from eating crops, she said.

“The answer is not to kill. The answer is to coexist,” she said.

Lindsay said that most of the time, there should be no issue when people see coyotes. Trapping helps manage the population so that it does not become so large that it causes problems. It can be a bit more of a challenge to do that in areas like Cape Elizabeth where there are more people, so targeting and eliminating individual animals that are causing a problem can settle things down for a while, he said.

“What we’ve shown is that wildlife can live quite comfortably in close proximity to people,” he said.

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