Pet Connection Q&A: Coyotes pose danger to pets, even in cities

12/04/2012 12:00 AM

12/03/2012 3:13 PM

When I'm walking my dog through a parkway near my home, we occasionally see coyotes. We have had a couple of small dogs killed by them, and judging by the "lost cats" signs, I suspect they've taken a few cats, too. I live in the suburbs of a big city, and I guess I'm surprised that coyotes will take a pet right under an owner's nose. Is there any way to protect our pets? This seems to be a relatively new problem here.

Coyotes are everywhere, and they've learned that household pets are relatively easy prey. They've used the ability to find food easily to expand their range dramatically. Coyotes are plentiful in suburban areas across the United States, and have even been reported in New York City and other highly urban environments.

Free-roaming cats seem to be especially at risk. Many times missing cats or the gruesome finding of feline remains is initially thought to be the work of sadistic cat-haters, but often these apparent crime sprees turn out to be the work of neighborhood coyotes. Keeping cats safely indoors is the only way to completely protect them.

Small dogs often are targets of hungry coyotes as well, and for these pets, it's important to be sure to supervise them in your yard, especially if you back up to a wooded area, golf course or other potentially coyote-rich environment.

When walking small dogs, don't let them off leash. Few coyotes are bold enough to get so close to a person as to snap up a leashed dog. Larger dogs are considerably less at risk, but not completely so, and it wouldn't hurt to keep a leash and close eye on them, as well.

To discourage coyotes from colonizing your neighborhood, work with your neighbors to remove food sources that attract these predators, such as pet food left outside, garbage cans that aren't securely closed or compost piles that are not correctly maintained. If food sources are denied them, the animals will move on to a more promising area.

While none of these steps will completely protect your pets, they will reduce the risk from these ever-more-common predators.

– Dr. Marty Becker

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