There's some debate over whether the coyotes came to Fallsgrove in Rockville, or whether the recently developed residential community was built on the animals' turf.
There's no dispute -- at least among human beings -- over who has to leave.
The coyotes do.
But Fallsgrove residents are clashing over the right way to evict them. A neighborhood homeowners association earlier this year hired Michael Adcock of Adcock Wildlife Management Inc. to get rid of the coyotes. Some residents and animal activists were disturbed when they saw the steel-jawed leg-hold traps he brought to their neighborhood.
"These devices are gruesome, horrible devices," said Margaret Zanville, president of the Montgomery County Humane Society. "When they snap, they crack the bone. Animals will chew their own paws off to get out of this horrible pain."
Adcock said the traps are perfectly legal and provide an effective method of nabbing the elusive creatures.
"They're extremely common in the industry," he said.
Circuit Court Judge Durke G. Thompson injected himself into the controversy Thursday by issuing a temporary restraining order barring Adcock from trapping animals on residential property in Montgomery County for at least the next 10 days. He also temporarily forbade Adcock to trap most types of mammals at night.
Attorneys for the Humane Society and a handful of Fallsgrove residents argued in court that Adcock was using traps inhumanely and in violation of Maryland law. They suggest using cages.
To date, Adcock said, the traps have caught 12 coyotes.
"I'm not saying these animals are not traumatized," Adcock said, noting that wildlife control is sometimes unsightly. "These are wild animals. I'm not saying this isn't an uncomfortable way to be trapped. But I'm going above and beyond what I'm supposed to do."
Adcock said his traps are padded and adjusted to ensure animals' limbs aren't severed. He said coyotes pose a risk to residents and their pets and cited a recent case involving a Cape Cod woman who was attacked by a coyote in her back yard.
The trapper also said that Montgomery Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, who lives in the area, was recently chased by a coyote. A police spokesman said he could not confirm the claim.
Left unchecked, Adcock warned, the area's coyotes could reproduce quickly.
Adcock, licensed as a nuisance wildlife control cooperator by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said less-painful trapping techniques -- such as cages -- are largely ineffective when it comes to catching adult coyotes.
"These are not normal coyotes," he said. "These coyotes have some dog in them. They're just so big."
Ken D'Loughy, central regional manager for the Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife and Heritage Service division, said he doesn't think anyone in Maryland has ever been attacked by a coyote.
"They've been known to take out the occasional cat," he said.
D'Loughy said it's not clear how long the coyotes have been in the neighborhood near Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, but he added that the volume of calls about them is increasing slightly.
Zanville said she also has a problem with Adcock's preferred method of euthanasia: a bullet. She said she has volunteered to euthanize them with a lethal injection at the local animal center, an offer he has declined.
Adcock said shooting coyotes is standard in the industry. He said he doesn't appreciate being portrayed as an insensitive and cruel man, noting that his livelihood could be at stake.
"I don't think there's any trapper in the world that rehabilitates more foxes than I do," he said. "I feel like I'm being singled out because I'm a good trapper, an aggressive trapper."
Cary J. Hansel, the trap opponents' attorney, said he is merely singling out violations of Maryland law. He cited in court the provisions of the Natural Resources Article of the Maryland Code that forbids illegally using leg-hold traps, illegally trapping on Sundays, illegally trapping at night and illegally trapping coyotes out of season.
"The primary concern for the plaintiffs was that anything done to them was done humanely," Hansel said.
Adcock, who said he was unprepared for the hearing because he was notified two hours before it began, challenged the plaintiffs' attorneys' contention that his traps were inhumane.
"I don't know how many animals these two gentleman have trapped in their lives," said Adcock, who represented himself during the 45-minute hearing. "They can't be trapped in cages. They're too smart for that."
The restraining order will be in effect for 10 days. After that, the plaintiffs said, they will seek a permanent injunction against Adcock's trapping methods.