Yo, Coyotes! Belmont's Now Tracking You Online
An innovative interactive mapping page will allow residents to input info, locate where coyotes have been. Animal Control hopes software will be used by residents to learn more about native hunter.
They can run but now it will be a bit more difficult for Belmont's coyote population to hide as the town's animal control officer and IT department have collaborated to develop an innovative on-line coyote tracker for residents' use.
Employing software developed by an Arlington software company, residents will soon be able to upload information onto a mapping website that will show where and when a coyotes has been sighted in Belmont.
"I think the more people are involved, they can better understand the situation with coyotes," said John Maguranis, Belmont's animal control officer.
Currently, residents can only input information on any sightings onto a map or through a drop list of town addresses, said Maguranis.
But according to Todd Consentino, the town's GIS and datebase administrator, a map will soon be up on the town's web site allowing for an interactive view of coyote locations.
Go to the tracking site by clicking here and scroll down and click on CLICK HERE TO PLOT A COYOTE SIGHTING ON MAP.
For Maguranis, the tracker will be a teaching tool so residents can better understand coyotes and their movements.
"People think we are passive policy on coyotes, but our policy is to educate the public," said Maguranis, who does not advocate "going out and blasting (the animal) when one is seen running through your backyard."
The tracker comes only weeks after a coyote attacked a small dachshund that required the pet and a young girl with the dog at the time to undergo rabies treatment, an incident Maguranis said would be a normal reaction by a coyote with a den of new pups and a mate to feed.
The mapping website is most useful to residents in providing practical information.
"If they live on 'x' street and see that there are no coyote sighting in their neighborhood, residents might feel better about going out," said Maguranis.
Saving a pet's life
"And if they let their dog or cat often, they can check the map and see if there has been activity, they might think better about letting them roam and just maybe save the life of their pet," he said.
The initial concept for the tracker came after Maguranis had worked with Consentino on other mapping projects as part of his job as the town's Veteran's Agent.
Once Maguranis threw out the idea, Consentino, who works in the town's IT Department, took the concept and creating a working site within one hour of being presented the challenge.
"Todd's been amazing," said Maguranis.
Consentino said he is now using third party software from Arlington-based PeopleGIS called MapsOnline, a simple online mapping tool, that will allow users to easily input data.
"We can choose the question, date, map and geography and allow residents to type it in," said Consentino, saying the interactive version will be up soon.
A search of internet websites shows only a smattering of like-tracker sighting sites but none in which a government agency or municipality has employed a mapping site.
For Maguranis, the interactive map is an exciting tool in reducing the discomfort many residents have being in such close proximity of wildlife.
"We're doing good things with coyotes (in Belmont). We have set the example of co-existing with them through education, answering questions, doing presentations and just talking about who coyotes are," said Maguranis.
While the coyote population has increased in Boston's suburbs, Maguranis said they nearly always avoid humans, only seen while on their way to hunt for rodents and forage fruit.
"As humans, we fear the unknown. So when people are educated about the coyotes, it lowers that fear level and people can deal with them," said Maguranis.