Updated at 5:26 p.m.

WESTFIELD, NJ – Police have been fielding reports of at least one coyote in the area, the department’s chief said Wednesday, following a resident’s posting a photo of a coyote dining on a groundhog in the area of Summit Court.

Police Chief Chris Battiloro noted that coyotes are often confused with fox — one of which was spotted eyeing a doorbell camera on Boulevard last week — and said police have received reports of the predatory animals on the north side of town in the areas of Wychwood Road, North Euclid Avenue and in the general area of Washington School.

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“I would not rule out the presence of a coyote, and certainly believe one or more may be present in the area, especially in wooded areas and along the railroad tracks on the south side of town,” Battiloro added.

Summit Court resident Frank Malfotto, a retired Belleville police captain, told TAPinto Westfield he spotted the coyote making a meal out of the groundhog at around 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The state Division of Fish & Wildlife warns that, while it rarely happens, coyotes have been known to attack.

“In suburban and urban areas, coyotes have occasionally attacked small pets,” the state says on its website. “Although attacks on humans are extremely rare in eastern states, as with any predatory animal they can occur.”

Indeed, such was the case last month when a coyote attacked a 36-year-old mother and her two young children while she was pushing them along in a stroller in a park in Fairfield, in Essex County, TAPinto West Essex reported. The coyote was thought to be rabid and a police officer seeking out the animal shot it dead that evening, authorities said.

The mother told reporters the coyote attacked her from behind, then pounced on her 3-year-old son when he tumbled out of the stroller. While both her son and her 18-year-old daughter had to undergo rabies shots, they were largely unharmed.

“Eric seems back to himself and is a trooper,” the woman said at a news conference the day after the attack. “He talks about the coyote and has named him Coco the Coyote. I hope that this doesn't impact their love of animals.”

The state Department of Environmental Protection says that while coyotes play an important role in the ecosystem, helping to keep rodent populations under control, their behavior can change if given access to human food and garbage.

“They lose caution and fear. They may cause property damage and threaten human safety, requiring euthanasia,” the DEP says. “Relocating a problem coyote is not an option because it only moves the problem to someone else's neighborhood.”

The state DEP offers the following tips for management of coyote:

  • Never feed a coyote. Deliberately feeding coyotes puts pets and other residents in the neighborhood at risk.
  • Feeding pet cats and/or feral (wild) cats outdoors can attract coyotes. The coyotes feed on the pet food and also prey upon the cats.
  • Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.
  • Remove sources of water, especially in dry climates.
  • Bring pets in at night.
  • Put away bird feeders at night to avoid attracting rodents and other coyote prey.
  • Provide secure enclosures for rabbits, poultry and other farm animals.
  • Pick up fallen fruit and cover compost piles.
  • Although extremely rare, coyotes have been known to attack humans. Parents should monitor their children, even in familiar surroundings, such as backyards.
  • Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
  • Clear brush and dense weeds from around dwellings — this reduces protective cover for coyotes and makes the area less attractive to rodents and rabbits. Coyotes, as well as other predators, are attracted to areas where rodents are concentrated like woodpiles.
  • If coyotes are present, make sure they know they're not welcome. Make loud noises, blast a canned air siren, throw rocks or spray them with a garden hose.

People observing coyotes in the daytime that show no fear of humans are advised to contact the Westfield Police Department at 908-789-4000 and the Division of Fish and Wildlife at 908-735-8793. Outside of normal business hours, call the DEP Hotline at 877-WARN-DEP.

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh

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