Newtown residents have reported multiple sightings — and hearings— of coyotes and coyote packs to The Newtown Bee in recent weeks. With recent news reports of dogs in Southington attacked by coyotes as their owner walked them on a trail, some people are anxious.
Diana Baxter has seen and heard a large pack of coyotes in the Walnut Tree Hill area the past week, and it makes her nervous.
“I am so afraid to let my dogs out without a leash now,” said Ms Baxter. “These are not small coyotes. They are as big as a wolf,” she said, and added that the coyotes come close to her home at night, howling. “There is a leader of the pack who is not afraid. The females slither behind him. He comes within 15 feet of my house,” Ms Baxter said.
Dr Debra Weisman, cofounder and chief medical officer of Newtown Veterinary Specialists, 52 Church Hill Road, cautioned residents in a March 31 letter to The Newtown Bee.
“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,” wrote Dr Weisman.
“Small dogs left unattended are easy targets. The best protection is to stay with your dog when it is outside,” advised the veterinarian, and if a cat must go outside, keep it leashed in a harness.
Dr Weisman noted that fences must be engineered to keep coyotes out, in order to protect pets in the yard. Build fences at least five feet in height, and bury wire fencing several inches below ground to deter digging.
Animal Control Officer Carolee Mason has not received a lot of calls about coyote packs yet this spring, but she is not surprised that more than one concerned resident has contacted The Bee about coyote presence in town.
“[Coyotes] are having their babies now, and this is the time of year when wild animals with young are trying to survive,” Ms Mason said. The howling heard in the nighttime is the coyotes way of communicating, she said.
Coyotes are described by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) as a small, German Shepherd-type dog, with “wide, pointed ears, a long muzzle, yellow eyes, and an uncurled, bushy tail which is carried low to the ground. Their weight averages between 30 and 50 pounds.”
While she has no proof that the count is up, Ms Mason believes that the coyote presence is greater in Newtown than it has been in previous years. She observed that fewer gray squirrels and turkeys are seen in the area, and her thought is that a greater number of coyotes — as well as fox — is keeping that number in check. Rodents, mice, squirrels, and birds are favored by coyotes as easy prey, as are unattended pets.
The call she does get frequently is from hobby chicken owners who are reporting that “my chickens have all disappeared or been killed.”
“People are buying chickens because they are cute, they lay eggs, and they eat up ticks in the yard,” Ms Mason said. But chickens that are not properly penned or safely locked up are fair game to coyotes who stop by for lunch or dinner, she said.
“So, people who are keeping chickens for hobbies are actually attracting more coyotes to the town,” said Ms Mason.
Pets left to roam freely are also at risk from coyotes, she said.
“Coyotes don’t see dogs or cats as ‘pets.’ They see them as ‘prey.’ Even a larger dog could be at risk from a pack of coyotes, especially if there are baby coyotes nearby,” Ms Mason said. Smaller dogs and cats are particularly vulnerable to coyote attack.
“Cats left out at night are at great risk. There are ways to keep cats [used to prowling outside at night] in the house. They might not be happy at first, but they will get used to the routine,” she said. Ms Mason suggested feeding a cat canned cat food in the evening, as a pleasant reason for the cat to stay inside.
“You might have to let it cry and have a few sleepless nights,” she admitted, but said it was preferable to having a favorite feline disappear in the jaws of a coyote.
It is not unusual to see coyotes during the daytime, as well as evening, Ms Mason said. Be cautious.
“They are more dangerous when they travel in packs, and they are more apt to be aggressive this time of the year [with pups being born],” she said.
Coyotes will make a den in shallow caves, or abandoned barns or sheds, but unlike foxes, will move their family often as it grows.
“Coyotes are always on the move. They don’t usually stay in the same place as where they give birth,” said Ms Mason.
If a coyote or coyotes are encountered, make a lot of noise.
“Yell or bang things,” she said. Coyotes tend to be timid around humans, generally.
“Be patient,” advised Ms Mason. “By the end of the summer, the babies will be grown and the coyotes will have moved on,” she said.
Attacks On Humans Are Rare
The DEEP notes that the risk of a coyote attacking people, even small children, is very remote. Feeding coyotes intentionally, or leaving food out where it can be foraged by hungry coyotes, though, can embolden the animals.
The DEEP website offers advice that echoes that of Dr Weisman and Ms Mason.
Do not allow pets to run free. Keep cats indoors, particularly at night, and small dogs on a leash or under close supervision at all times. The installation of a kennel or coyote-proof fencing is a long-term solution for protecting pets.
Never feed coyotes. Clean up bird seed below feeders, pet foods, and fallen fruit. Secure garbage and compost in animal-proof containers.
If approached by a coyote while walking your dog, keep the dog under control and calmly leave the area. Do not run or turn your back. Coyotes are territorial and many reports of bold coyotes visiting yards, howling, or threatening larger dogs can often be attributed to this territorial behavior.
Attempt to frighten away coyotes by making loud noises (e.g., shouting, air horn) and acting aggressively (e.g., waving your arms, throwing sticks, spraying with a hose).
Be aware of any coyote behaving abnormally or exhibiting unusually bold behavior and report these incidents to authorities immediately.
Be aware of and report any coyotes exhibiting behavior indicative of rabies, such as staggering, seizures, and extreme lethargy. Daytime activity is not uncommon and does not necessarily indicate rabies.
Teach children to recognize coyotes and to go inside the house (do not run) or climb up on a swing or deck and yell if they are approached.
Close off crawl spaces under porches and sheds that coyotes or other animals may use.
Contact the DEP Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011 for more information on coyotes or other wildlife problems.
“Call Animal Control, 203-426-6900, if you are concerned about coyotes,” Ms Mason said. Staff will answer questions and assist in any way they can.