Saturday 12 June 2010

Dog killed by a coyote

A sharp rise in the number of coyotes roaming the Twin Cities metro has some residents worried because the wild animals feed on small mammals, including pets. Sitting at his computer screen John Ritter clicks through half a dozen vivid photographs.

"One came from up here and the other one came from behind, so she was being circled by coyotes," Ritter explained.

His daughter Shauna recently took the family labs for a walk behind Simley High School where the ball fields adjoin nearby woods and a pond. The area has walking trails that are popular with local pet owners. Besides the dogs she also took along a camera to capture what is becoming an all too common sight -- a pair of coyotes roaming the neighborhood.

"The location of these particular (coyotes) is not good. ... Unfortunately (what we observed) came too late," said Ritter. He is feeling badly because he was unable to warn other dog walkers about his daughter's coyote encounter. Sandy Klimas lives just down the street and has used the same trails to walk the family's dog, but she says, you don't have to go far to see the wild critters in search of a meal. "We had 'em right across the street," said Klimas.

It was an encounter Monday night that has Sandy and her family mourning the loss of the family pet. That's when 4-year-old "Chico" was snatched and killed by a coyote along the trails just behind the high school. "My husband heard a fight and then silence and then another scuffle then silence. (He) found him (Chico) about an hour-and-a-half later -- kept combing the woods and he finally found him," she said.

With plenty of woods and waters throughout the metro, coyotes are finding the perfect habitat in which to survive and thrive. Because coyotes are unprotected by state law, problem animals can be killed by landowners or local police. The problem is that strict firearms and archery ordinances prohibit the discharge of the weapons in metro
communities. If problem animals need to be dispatched, it is up to local police and animal control to do the job, but for officers to spend the required time waiting for the coyotes to appear can be cost prohibitive.

The Department of Natural Resources said controlling coyotes is up to local jurisdictions. The DNR's Steve Merchant urges caution, saying, "They're going to have to be careful of local ordinances that would prevent them from using traps or firearms." But for the Klimas family, any chance of that happening came too late.

"They're not afraid. They are not afraid of humans, so it's tough," said Klimas.

The Minnesota DNR says to avoid problems with coyotes, people should make sure garbage containers are secure and get rid of bird feeders that might attract wild animals. Pets should be kept in kennels and always supervised when outside. To scare off a coyote, shout at it and make loud noises. Finally, don't feed coyotes or leave pet food outside.

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