Two Bangor residents who live just west of Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center have reported seeing coyotes in their yards in recent weeks.
On Dec. 5, a woman who lives on Howard Street reported that she was a walking a small dog in her backyard when a coyote started to approach them, according to Bangor’s animal control officer, Trisha Bruen. It happened just off Mt. Hope Avenue.
The woman quickly went into her home and reported the encounter to authorities. Bruen was among the officials who visited the home and saw the animal herself.
“The coyote tried to approach and she retreated,” Bruen said. “One could surmise that perhaps the small dog looked like a small meal.”
Then, on Wednesday of this week, Mark Lausier, who lives roughly a half-mile away near the intersection of Kira Drive and Vance Avenue, took photos of an animal that resembled a coyote in his yard.
In the photos, which Lausier shared with the Bangor Daily News, the animal appeared to be losing patches of fur, which can be a symptom of the skin disease mange, and trying to dig into groundhog holes, Bruen said.
Bruen didn’t know if that was the same animal that appeared in the woman’s yard earlier in the month.
It wasn’t possible to positively identify the animals as coyotes.
Coyotes have been known to frequent the area around Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center, which is bordered by uninterrupted fields and woods, according to Walter Jakubas, the mammal group leader at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, whose office is nearby. Part of that area is Saxl Park, a trail system popular with birders.
While it’s unusual for coyotes to approach humans, they might do so if they’re mangy, Jakubas said. That’s because the disease can sap their energy and cause them to act in strange ways, such as look for food that might be near a home.
After looking at Lausier’s photos and a photo from the Dec. 5 sighting, Jakubas said the animals residents spotted appeared to have traits that are more associated with dogs, such as floppy ears, shorter legs and a less pointy snout. However, he said, mange can affect a coyote’s ears, making them appear less rigid, which makes it more difficult to distinguish between some dogs and coyotes.
Jakubas also warned against letting pets frequent areas where mangy animals have passed, given that the disease can spread.
While Bruen is not a wildlife expert, she said she found it “kind of disturbing” that coyotes might get so close to a home. She noted that both sightings were near relatively wooded areas off Mt. Hope Avenue where prey such as groundhogs might live.
“It’s just very strange behavior,” she said. “They generally don’t want to be seen by the public. There could be other possibilities. They could be old. They could be tired. People aren’t seeing them every day.”
Members of the Maine Warden Service and Bangor Police Department responded to the complaint of a coyote in early December, but not the one this week, Bruen said.
She advised anyone who sees a coyote to stay away, keep their animals on leashes and not let kids try to play with them.
Sgt. Ralph Hosford, a Maine game warden working in Hancock County on Thursday, said he’d heard about the sighting this week, but was not aware that it threatened the public’s safety.
Hosford said that “it’s not totally uncommon” to see mangy animals this time of year. They might be weak and decide to come hunt in residential areas where they’re more likely to encounter small animals.
“We tell people not to approach them,” he said. “Don’t think that it’s cute and cuddly. We don’t want anyone to get bit.”
In 2012, some residents of that part of Bangor learned the hard way that foxes and coyotes might live in their midst when some of their cats went missing.
Last spring, a coyote was found pacing around an outdoor alcove of what’s now Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, at the intersection of Howard and State streets.
Correction: This article has been updated to include input from a mammal biologist at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.