To the Editor:
There seems to be an increase in the reported incidence of dogs being attacked by coyotes and not just in rural areas. As with most wildlife, coyotes have been forced into urban areas due to increased land development. As a result, coyotes are becoming less fearful of humans.
According to the Dallas/Fort Worth Wildlife Coalition, coyotes live in almost every city across the US. While they rarely bother humans, they are a great threat to domestic dogs, especially the smaller breeds. The main diet of coyotes is small rodents, but they will go after small dogs if given the chance. Cats are also at risk. Recently, small groups of coyotes have been witnessed to take down deer right here in Newtown.
Be cautious during coyote mating season in January through March when coyotes can travel long distances to find mates and may require extra calories to build dens. Studies have shown that coyotes are quite aggressive during this time.
Small dogs left unattended are easy targets. The best protection is to stay with your dog when it is outside. Coyotes may want to come after the dog, but will shy away if a human is around. Keep house cats inside; if they must go out use a harness and leash and don't leave them unattended. If you come into contact with a coyote, it is suggested that you wave your arms and shout or do anything you can to scare it away, including making loud sounds with noisemakers or pots and pans.
Fences don’t always keep coyotes out. They can jump over fences and have the ability to dig under or slide through gaps. The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Department recommends that fences should be at least five feet high and built on sloping terrain, they should not exceed six inches between stays and galvanized wire-mesh should be buried beneath the fence to hinder digging under.
Do not feed or leave food out for them. Our goal is to keep them fearful of humans. If you feed them, it encourages them to come back to your area and become more accustomed to humans. Don’t put your trash out at night, since coyotes tend to become most active in the evening and early mornings. Seal your garbage cans so that coyotes do not smell food.
Dogs running loose will attract wandering coyotes. Keep your dog on a short leash, especially through areas where coyotes thrive. Some experts suggest carrying a big stick, which you can wave while shouting, or bring noisemakers with you when walking your dog to scare off coyotes.
Keep your pets safe by taking the above precautions to avoid coming in contact with coyotes and other wildlife.
Debra L. Weisman, DVM, MS
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgeons
Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer
Newtown Veterinary Specialists
52 Church Hill Road, Newtown March 31, 2014