BUFFALO, NY — Amid concerns raised by animal rights groups, Forest Lawn Cemetery has removed some traps it had set out in hopes catching some Coyotes inhabiting its grounds.
The cemetery also got an assist from the SPCA of Erie County, which is now helping map out an alternative solution to their nuisance problem which does not involve trapping.
Forest Lawn officials declined several opportunities we gave them to speak on camera, but told WGRZ-TV they are grateful to the SPCA for stepping forward to help them broker a peace which they hope all can live with.
Coyotes Declared a Nuisance
According to cemetery officials, a decision to remove coyotes from their grounds was prompted by the discovery of some workers, wherein they reported seeing a couple of coyotes consuming the carcass of a young deer, which the coyotes had presumably killed, and the conclusion that coyotes had claimed every fawn born to the cemetery herd this year.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page the cemetery said, “We contacted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for guidance, which their Wildlife Biologist provided….and which culminated in the DEC issuing a permit, authorizing Forest Lawn to engage an experienced professional, licensed and insured wildlife trapper to handle the situation.”
Interestingly, in a statement the DEC reported that it issued the permit after “two separate incidents of coyotes chasing people in the span of a week”, which is something Forest Lawn, in its statements, never indicated.
The DEC went on to state, “These incidents demonstrated that the coyote is exhibiting aggressive behavior and likely habituated to humans. While most coyotes avoid interacting with people, some coyotes may become emboldened and lose their fear of people, which can result in a dangerous situation.”
But when it was learned the plan was to kill the coyotes after they were trapped (it is illegal under NY state law to transport or re-locate wildlife) it sparked a backlash on social media, which caught the attention of the SPCA of Erie County.
"I think what ended up happening is that Forest Lawn was presented with one solution by the DEC, while completely unaware of the fact that there could be other ways of handling this population problem,” said the SPCA’s Gina Browning, who noted those alternative means would stop short of killing coyotes.
She also insisted that killing the coyotes, while offering a short-term solution to a problem, might only end up exacerbating the problem over time.
“You’re not controlling what drew the coyotes in the first place, and that's what need to be controlled,” Browning said. “You could end up with more coyotes than you started with.”
And so the SPCA will work with Forest Lawn to develop a comprehensive wildlife management plan, looking at everything from the food sources that brought the coyotes here, to measures making it a less hospitable place for them to live.
"There are measures we could help Forest Lawn take that include lighting and sound which might help re-instill fear in these animals,” said Browning. “How effective those measures might be, will take us some time to find out.”
A Nice Place for Coyotes
Forest Lawn presents a rather ideal habitat for Coyotes. There are plenty of squirrels and other prey to consume, they never have to worry about speeding cars, and contact with humans is limited, with the cemetery – surrounded by a tall iron fence- closed for two-thirds of the hours in a given day.
“That’s what makes coming up with an effective plan somewhat tricky,” conceded Browning. “We have to take a look at that and see what habitat modification elements we could bring to Forest Lawn, and if anyone thinks that can be done in a matter of weeks or even months, then they are delusional,” Browning said.