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DEM euthanizes coyote injured by trap

By Matt Sheley

Staff writer

MIDDLETOWN - The coyote that was trapped illegally earlier this month in Middletown was euthanized Tuesday morning in the area of Third Beach, according to the state Department of Environmental Management.

Middletown Police received a report Tuesday morning from someone who said they saw the coyote limping off Third Beach Road near the town's Sachuest Beach Family Campground. Police notified DEM about the sighting.

After DEM environmental police found the animal, State Veterinarian Scott Marshall determined it had to be euthanized. After a subsequent investigation, Marshall said the coyote's right leg had “significant damages, including numerous fractures, massive soft tissueloss and complete strangulation of the animal's leg distal” as a result of the trap, which was still attached.

Marshall determined there was nothing that could have been done to save the leg, also noting that the coyote was malnourished because it was unable to hunt because of the damage to its leg.

Area coyote expert Numi Mitchell, who was not on the scene when the animal was put down, said she agrees there was no other option.

“I have no question it was necessary,” said Mitchell, who's been leading a study of the coyote populations on Aquidneck and Conanicut islands. “It would have been extremely cruel not to euthanize this animal, based on his condition.”

Mitchell said rehabilitating a coyote is illegal in Rhode Island, a topic that came up locally during discussionabout potentially moving “Cliff the Coyote” to a zoo last fall.

In that situation, Middletown police had given the go-ahead to euthanize Cliff after he had too many run-ins with people. After a campaign to save his life went international, Cliff was relocated by DEM to an undisclosed location.

“When we were trying to relocate Cliff, zookeepers said coyotes do not adapt well to captivity,” Mitchell said. “They're made to run and in this situation, the coyote had a trap on its foot and it becomes increasingly difficult to save the animal.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Gail Mastrati, a DEM spokeswoman, confirmed for the first time the trap on the coyote was illegal in Rhode Island. The device previously had been described as a steel leg foothold trap.

According to Mitchell, the trappedcoyote was first spotted on March 3 between Old Mill Lane in Portsmouth and Peckham Avenue in Middletown. The Daily News published a story about the injured animal on March 9, including a contributed photo taken of the coyote on Vaucluse Avenue.

DEM environmental police are handling the investigation into the illegal trap. Middletown Police Lt. Jason Ryan said local police are aware of the situation off Third Beach Road on Tuesday morning, but the case was overseen by DEM police.

As of late Wednesday, DEM and Middletown police reported no arrests in connection with the case. Anyone with information is asked to contact DEM environmental police at 222-3070.

Under state law, the use of an illegal

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trap is punishable by a fine of up to $500, a year in prison and loss of trapping privileges for a year. Maliciously wounding an animal can result in up to a five-year prison sentence and a $1,000 fine.

“What's happened here tells me that there are issues in Middletown and people are taking matters into their own hands,” Mitchell said. “It's both dangerous and illegal and not a viable management solution (for coyotes). The secret, as we've been saying for years, is reduce the food subsidies.”

A Portsmouth man who said he was the one who called Middletown police about the coyote Tuesday morning agreed that there was no other optionbut to euthanize the animal.

The man, who did not want to be identified, said he and his wife saw the coyote limping in an area by the campground.

He said one shot was fired at the animal by DEM police, causing it to flee to a grassy marshland area behind the former Navy Beach parking lot, where it was shot twice and died.

“If you saw the thing run, it wasn't a healthy coyote,” the man said. “He probably wasn't eating and it was clearly in a lot of pain. At least he's not in pain anymore.”

The coyote was quickly removed from the area by the DEM officer, the man said. DEM and Middletown police said they are unsure of the gender of the coyote. The man said the coyote was about 50 pounds and “on thesmall side”.

“From what I saw, they had no other choice,” the man said. “If you looked at its leg, (the trap) cut two of his bones in half.”

Mitchell said she believes the coyote was a member of the “Sachuest Pack,” a group of coyotes located on the east side of Middletown, including the beach area.

She said it does not appear the group had ostracized the coyote because of its injuries.

“It being pushed aside? That didn't seem to happen with this animal,” Mitchell said. “If he wasn't a member of that pack, he would have been pushed out or worse by that group. That group regularly hunts deer in the area and if they were able to catch one, they'd share it.”

Sheley@NewportRI.com

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