PORTLAND (AP) – Members of Portland’s Public Safety Committee on Wednesday voted against baiting and killing coyotes in the city, but left open the possibility of a hunt to reduce their numbers in the future.

The three city councilors on the committee said they would rather teach Portland residents to discourage coyotes from frequenting residential areas than attempt to exterminate them. Experts told the committee that a proposal to bait and kill coyotes on municipal land would not work in summer, when food is plentiful.

Officials did not rule out dispatching members of the Maine Bowhunters Association if residents felt threatened by coyotes months from now.

Councilor Cheryl Leeman suggested having such a “Plan B” ready to go “as we approach winter and get some assessment from the neighborhoods as to what kind of activities are going on out there.”

Art teacher Laura Howe told the committee that she and her neighbors on Edgeworth Avenue are terrified of coyotes in the area.

After the meeting, Howe said she did not want to see coyotes shot. But she would like to see the pack near her home move away.

Fewer than 20 coyotes are believed to be living in Portland, with a statewide population of more than 15,000, said Philip Bozenhard, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Biologist Lois Winter said coyotes would rather avoid people than attack them.

Instead of trying to exterminate the animals, councilors said tips like keeping pets indoors at night and taking trash out close to the pickup time could help reduce the interactions between people and coyotes.

That advice might be distributed on public access television and the city Web site and included in a directory of city services mailed to homes.

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