Coyotes: Living among us and a threat to our pets.

Published: Mar. 9, 2020 at 7:08 PM PDT
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Michelle Montierth understood there were coyotes in the neighborhood when she, her husband and their two small dogs moved into their home in the Indian Hills neighborhood in northern Douglas County.

She'd been told they were active at night. So, they installed some deterrents, wolf urine and solar-powered lights that ranchers use and the dogs were watched if they needed to go out into their back yard at night.

Daytime, they thought, would be safe.

"I didn't once hear anybody say once anything about the fact that it wasn't safe any time."

But one day recently she arrived home from work, Zeus, their 24-pound miniature schnauzer, typically greeted her barking as she pulled into the garage. This day, all was silent.

"I just got a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was wrong. I came in the house and my other dog was downstairs and Zeus wasn't."

Zeus was lying in the back yard, dead. Their backyard security camera recorded the whole tragic encounter.

Zeus and their other dog, Lily, went outside. A coyote easily jumped their four foot fence and was on Zeus immediately, grabbing him by the throat dragging him toward the fence, seemingly oblivious to Lily's attempts to defend him.

"It was absolutely horrific to see."

The coyote finally abandoned his attempts to carry him off, leaving the body for Michelle to discover.

A tragic incident but hardly unique.

Subscribers to the neighborhood networking app Next Door regularly read accounts of cats suddenly gone missing. One even plotted coyote sightings in his northwest Reno neighborhood. You don't have to live on the edge of open country to be sharing your space in the world with coyotes.

"They can definitely come into the neighborhoods," says Jessica Wolff, an urban wildlife coordinator at the Nevada Department of Wildlife.. "We've even had sightings in downtown Reno and that's because we provide such good habitat for them."

And the Department of Wildlife hears from distraught pet owners on a fairly regular basis.

Coyotes, Wolff says, are extremely adaptable, omnivorous creatures and without knowing we invite them into our presence with landscaping that draws their natural prey, green lawns that attract rabbits, bird feeders that bring birds. Coyotes will make meals of all, including the birdseed and, if the opportunity presents itself, dogs and cats are on the menu.

"It's really important for pet owners, especially small pets to keep them inside or in a fully enclosed dog roof with a roof as coyotes are great jumpers. They can actually jump a seven-foot fence easily."

The Montierths have installed a big outdoor kennel for Lily, who's having a hard time adjusting to the confinement and the loss of Zeus.

It will have to do for the moment. There's no easy fix. Removing the coyotes isn't practical or effective for a variety of reasons and could even be counter productive, causing an increase in the population.

"If you know that up front and you understand the complexity of the issue," says Michelle Montierth," and you also understand the behavior of the coyote and you don't have a lot of misinformation then you probably can protect your animals adequately by whatever means you have.

Still have concerns and questions? Contact the Department of Wildlife.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020

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