Pack of coyotes stalks, kills family dog in western Nevada County
June 6, 2009
GRASS VALLEY and#8212; A trapper will soon set snares on a Sweetland property after a pack of coyotes killed a family dog in broad daylight.
An 18-pound rat terrier named and#8220;Hassand#8221; was killed in view of his owner Jennifer Martines, her boyfriend and the couple’s other two dogs Thursday afternoon. Sweetland is located about seven miles from North San Juan.
and#8220;They are brazen, completely unafraid of humans,and#8221; Martines said. The incident was the first time in 11 years living on the 5-acre property that Martines had ever encountered a problem with coyotes.
While the pack of coyotes was displaying normal hunting behavior and the capture of domestic pets is not uncommon, to pounce and make a kill in front of humans is unusual, said California Department of Fish and Game Warden Patrick Foy.
and#8220;They’ll readily kill a domestic animal, especially cats,and#8221; Foy said. Finding humans as a regular source of food in the form of garbage or dog food could dissolve a coyote’s timidity toward humans.
A federal trapper working for the wildlife services branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture gets calls about dog and coyote confrontations once a week, said Jeff Pylman, Nevada County’s Agricultural Commissioner.
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Up to three times a year, an account of a coyote killing a dog in Nevada County is reported, Pylman said.
and#8220;People really need to supervise their dogs, especially the smaller ones. Coyotes will really size them up,and#8221; Pylman said. An electric fence or keeping dogs on a leash can help, he added.
The recent incident in Sweetland may be parent animals protecting their young in nearby dens rather than rabid behavior, Pylman said. Coyotes are usually raising their young in dens March through August, Pylman said.
Ranchettes and homes located near natural or manmade riparian areas are considered ideal for den building.
and#8220;When there’s a confrontation like this, it’s usually close to people’s homes,and#8221; Pylman said.
Considered aggressive behavior by humans, coyotes work together to maximize their effectiveness at killing, Foy said.
and#8220;Oftentimes they’ll not only eat dog food but they’ll eat the dog,and#8221; Foy said. A 6-foot wooden fence will barely slow a coyote down, Foy said.
and#8220;The dogs have always chased them off in the past. They’d obviously been stalking for awhile. It was brutal,and#8221; Martines said.
Martines recalled the echo of her dog’s last scream. After killing Hass, a coyote was seen carrying the dog’s body away in its mouth, leaving no trace behind.
Coyote attacks on humans are not unheard of and in fact more common than bear attacks, Foy said. Several years ago, a child was killed by a coyote in Southern California. Small children are definitely at risk, Foy said.
and#8220;If that were happening in my neighborhood, I would be very wary,and#8221; Foy said. and#8220;They’re starting to edge into the gray area of a public safety threat.and#8221;