Possible coyote sighting puts school on alert

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website and the Southern Chester County Weeklies‘ website.
A coyote walks in the snow in the wild. Coyotes are best known as desert animals, but they also have been occasionally spotted in the lush green woods of southeastern Pennsylvania. (Daily Local News)

A coyote walks in the snow in the wild. Coyotes are best known as desert animals, but they also have been occasionally spotted in the lush green woods of southeastern Pennsylvania. (Daily Local News)

Coyotes are best known as desert animals, but they also have been occasionally spotted in the lush green woods of southeastern Pennsylvania.

School officials in one southern Chester County district are concerned that’s what happened on Saturday.

That’s when a maintenance worker cutting the grass at Greenwood Elementary School Saturday morning said he spotted what appeared to be a coyote on the school grounds.

After being reported by the worker, students were not permitted outside during the school day earlier this week.

“We kept the kids in at recess just to get a handle on what was going on with a possible coyote sighting,” Kennett Consolidated School District Superintendent Barry Tomasetti said in a phone interview Thursday morning.

… [Please continue the story on the Daily Local News website by clicking here.]

The district contacted the staff at Longwood Gardens since their grounds are contiguous with school property.

“There are some wooded areas back in there and most likely, if there was a coyote, that was where it was coming from,” Tomasetti said. “We worked with (Longwood) yesterday while the kids were in at recess.”

Coyotes, which are smaller than wolves, can oftentimes be mistaken for other animals, such as a gray fox or a domesticated dog that is on the loose.

But that isn’t to say there isn’t a coyote population in this area.

“We don’t have population level data for coyotes, (but) it would be safe to say that there has been expansion into southeastern Pennsylvania in general,” said Travis Lau, spokesman with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. “It’s probably a safe statement to say you’re more likely to see a coyote in Chester County now than you were maybe 15 years ago.”

The good news is that generally, coyotes tend to keep away from people, children included.

“Typically, there wouldn’t be a threat, per se, if it was in fact a coyote and it was spotted near a school,” Lau said. “Even with children, coyotes, under most circumstances, are going to avoid any interaction with people.”

A majority of attacks involving coyotes are against livestock or pets, not humans, the Pennsylvania Game Commission said.

To be safe, the school district has also been in contact with the Wildlife Associates Limited in Exton, which has handled reports of coyotes before.

Two cage traps have been set around the area by Wildlife Associates Limited, wildlife cameras have been put up by Longwood Gardens and Greenwood has gone around the school and shored up all the fences and made repairs to any openings there may have been.

“We’re just being as cautious as we can and we are confident the areas are separated from the wooded areas with the new fencing,” Tomasetti said.

As for now, no more sightings of the possible coyote have been reported and Mark Thurston, owner of Wildlife Associates Limited and a wildlife biologist, has done some scouting in the wooded area as well.

“I looked at a couple denning sites (and) all were consistent with groundhogs,” he said. “I only looked at a small area. Coyotes can have a quite large home range, so they can cover quite a distance.”

The traps will remain up for the time being with no set timetable as when they will be taken down if no new sightings are reported. With all the safety precautions going on, the children at Greenwood Elementary were allowed to return outside for recess as of Thursday.

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Categories: Community, Education

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