Coyotes and Pets
In many areas of the United States, even those that have been inhabited by humans for years, coyotes and pets can come face to face in violent confrontation with the odds of winning heavily in the coyote's favor. After experiencing this first hand, I have talked to others in the neighborhood that have lost their beloved pets to coyotes. One gentleman related witnessing a pair of them working together to outwit a small dog that got loose.
Several Tuesday’s ago I was sitting in my favorite Lazy Boy writing an article when Mr. Toad (my pug) jumped up from a dead sleep growling and barking at some unseen distraction in the backyard. The blinds were half closed to block the sun, so I couldn’t see what he was focusing on and since he does this a lot – I paid no attention. Probably a dove or a rabbit I thought.
The sliding glass door was open and Toad dutifully charged after whatever intruder had dared to enter his domain. I continued to write, figuring he would be back within moments.
Now, I have a significant hearing loss and didn’t hear any commotion, so I still can’t figure out how I knew something was wrong but somehow I did. I found myself dashing out into the backyard just in time to see the back end of a bushy-tailed coyote leaping over our 5 foot fence. In that split second, I have to admit that I was impressed at how effortlessly he (she?) did so.
I was in shock – did I really just see that? The suburb I live in backs up to a large hill where coyotes, crows and rabbits by the thousands reside, so yes it is possible that this could happen. I’d seen a coyote before as a silhouette on the crest of the hill at twilight.
Damages to Mr. Toad
I turned to look for Mr. Toad and saw him scampering indoors and take sanctuary at the back of the Lazy Boy, a spot he retreats to from time to time. His back was toward me and I couldn’t see anything wrong, but there was the unmistakable smell of blood. I got down on my hands and knees to investigate and what I saw was sickening. I immediately grabbed my cell phone and called the vet.
Bulging out of its socket and bleeding. I could see Toad’s left eye was blind and filled with blood - there was no pupil, just a pale pink orb. Puncture marks above and below the eye where the coyote had nipped him seemed a bite of warning and not meant to destroy.
As bad luck would have it, I didn’t have a car that day. My husband was out in the field and would be for most of the day. The vet tech who answered the phone wasted no time in jumping in her car and retrieving him without my asking. Thank heaven for compassionate vet techs!
Coyotes and Pet Safety
$1500 later and wearing one of those awful plastic cones, Toad is minus one eye, but making a speedy recovery. He’ll be fine in another week or two and would probably risk his life again without a second thought if it came to it. I’ve often wondered since that day why the coyote didn’t kill him when he could easily have done so. Mr. Toad is very lucky to be alive.
What is the point of this story? Coyotes were here long before humans showed up and they have adapted in their will to survive. They are smart and cunning and won’t think twice about stealing and eating your cat or dog. It’s perfectly natural for them to do so. If you have coyotes and pets living side by side in your own area, don't assume something like this could never happen - it can! Please take precautions and don’t leave your pet alone outside, particularly if they are small.
UPDATE (August 2011): The county game warden was in our neck of the woods recently investigating multiple complaints on recent backyard coyote sightings. More than one had lost a small dog (we have mostly dogs in this neighborhood). He stated he was alarmed by the growing trend of coyotes hunting within human sight. This boldness can possibly transcend to attacking children if they happen to be in the way.
Suggestion from the warden on what NOT to do...
1) He said there were people who have been leaving dog food out for the coyotes thinking it would keep them away from their pets. This is the absolute worst thing to do! It simply encourages their aggressiveness.
2) Never let your small dog out alone, especially at night or in the dawn hours. You may never see them again. Reconsider walking a small dog during these hours if possible - you never know when that line will be crossed for a coyote to attack regardless of your presence.