Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Coyotes have a taste for man's best friend

This morning Steve Myers got a first-hand look at the darker side of Ohio's inflated Eastern coyote population.

And it likely came at the expense of at least one of his neighbor's terriers.

After getting into his Ashtabula County deer-hunting tree stand well before daylight, Myers started to settle in for an opportunity to arrow a deer.

However, Myers quickly found that his deer hunting had ended just as it was starting. He heard some yipping and yapping as a couple of small dogs came racing underneath his tree stand. Not far behind was, first, one coyote and then another.

It was predator chasing prey. And from the wailing sound Myers heard coming from a thicket at least one of the terriers appeared to have lost the race.

Not having much of a shot at a running coyote, Myers had little chance to save the little dog. So it would seem that the terrier became a coyote's fast-food breakfast.

"It happens, and in that kind of situation where the dog is outside of the yard it can be attacked. This is a classic example of why we encourage people to keep their small dogs, especially, in a fenced-in yard," said Dan Kramer, wildlife management supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife's District Three (Northeast Ohio) office in Akron.

"We get calls all the time from folks in Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga counties that they're seeing coyotes. Coyotes are predators and are very much aware of dogs as prey and take the opportunity to pounce when the time is right."

Though statistics regarding coyote attacks on dogs is a little slim elsewhere the best of such research comes out of Chicago. There, Ohio State University researcher Stanley Gehart has conducted extensive research on all aspects of urban-dwelling coyotes. Including attacks on pets, particularly dogs.

What Gehart expresses in the "Cook County, Illinois Coyote Project" study is that attacks on dogs by coyotes is neither unique nor isolated. The research paper documents 70 such attacks on dogs plus another 10 on cats.

Perhaps not unexpectedly the largest number of attacks were addressed to the smallest of dog breeds: Yorkshire terriers in first, Shih Tzus in second and Jack Russel terriers in third.

If a larger breed dog was attacked - like a Labrador or golden retriever - than the odds favored that a pack of coyotes were involved and not just a single animal.

Too, attacks on dogs begin to soar in October and runs through February, after which coyotes begin denning and are thus less inclined to track down free-roaming dogs as a meal.

That doesn't leave canines free of a coyote threat, however, says Kramer.

Should a dog get too close to a coyote den then the canine will be viewed as a threat and subsequently attacked, Kramer says.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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