Dog Safety, Coyote Attacks, What to Do

by Mary Haight on November 26, 2012

dog safetyDog safety is something every pet parent is concerned with, and no one understands that better than Dawn McCarty who was shocked to suddenly realize her dog was not safe in her own back yard.  As she opened her door to get the paper she heard her Chihuahua scream. She ran to the backyard to find a coyote tugging at Tucker’s leg. Luckily she was able scare away the coyote, the size of a German Shepherd, with the newspaper. That’s not always what results in these encounters. The dog, who has lived through more than a few troubles, was fine barring some scratches — one lucky dog. Tucker’s experience serves as a good public service announcement.

Coyote Attacks On the Rise

Early morning you can find coyotes hunting, even though they are nocturnal and avoid contact with humans. When I lived in the country, we saw how they hunted in that environment, in pairs, so when the prey runs in another direction, the other coyote is positioned to pursue. A trends report for Chicago notes, based on newspaper reports, an increase in attacks stating:

“Most attacks (60%) were on small breed dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers, Shih Tzus and Jack Russell Terriers, and these attacks were frequently fatal.  Coyote attacks on dogs peaked in December – February during the coyote mating season [Ed. Dec-April] and again during April when the pups are usually born (Gehrt 2006). …Gehrt and Riley (2010) conclude that this pattern indicates that these attacks result from competition as well as predation.”

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a coyote who stalked a dog in Tucson. My friend Edie Jarolim was walking her dog Frankie on the trails around Tucson when she spotted a coyote not six feet away from her leashed dog. It was May, so the timing was right for pups and the rearing thereof (May – August). Often the presence of a human scares them away, but when resources are scarce boldness follows.

What to Do

If you are in the habit of walking in forest preserves, or even large parks in and surrounding cities, this is one aspect of dog safety you may not be prepared for. Be aware and carry some form of dog repellant, the type that emits sound like the hiss of a snake might work, or the citronella spray (and scare away loose dogs, too). A few years ago, a multi-year study of Chicago showed that more than 2000 coyotes live in the city and exploit every area of it, so don’t think you’re safe from the wild things because you live in a city! Apparently urban coyotes are healthier and live longer than their country cousins.

Did you know coyotes can jump a six foot fence, or dig under it? Have you ever been surprised by a coyote, have you ever thought you might be?

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

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