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Coyote attacks dogs in backyard in CA - Is there a risk throughout the US?

coyote - note slender build, long ears, narrow muzzle
coyote - note slender build, long ears, narrow muzzle

Coyotes roam throughout North America. They can be found in every state. They survive in suburban and even urban areas. They feed on all types of food from trash to small animals, fruits and vegetables. They are especially drawn to feral cat colonies. Coyotes have been around for a long, long time.

However, there is a new threat moving southward through the United States. This threat is the coywolf which is a cross between the coyote and the wolf. This author has personally seen them as far south as Pennsylvania at the southern end of the Poconos. I am certain that they roam further south.

The habits of the coywolf are not yet understood. Will they be more like a coyote or will they behave like the wolf, or perhaps somewhere in-between? As with any mix until a stable subspecies is established, the behavior of the individual animal will vary depending on which genes dominate. This is no different than some of the popular designer dogs such as the “poo” breeds. No two “poo” mix dogs ever conform to a standard in size, type or behavior.

The ongoing issue with the coywolves is that they can keep mixing coywolf to coyote, coywolf to wolf, etc. preventing the subspecies from becoming stable in its habits or size.

The appearance of the coywolf varies, making it difficult for the untrained eye to distinguish between the coywolf, coyote and wolf.

Typically a wolf will not attack a human or wander in populated areas. However, this is not true of coyotes and coywolves. A pair of them tried to attack a dog being walked on a leash two years ago in Pennsylvania. Fortunately the owner was able to chase them away.

If no other means of protection is available to you, carrying a can of hornet spray may help to protect you and your pets while you are out walking.

When viewing the slide show, notice the difference in coat and size (bone structure) between coyotes and coywolves.

The following account from the Helen Woodward Animal Center in California is a dire warning to all pet owners.

For the article about Sophie go to:

“In 2013, a heroic 2-year old Maltipoo named Sophie arrived at Helen Woodward Animal Center after protecting a 7-month old puppy from a vicious coyote. Both dogs survived the attack and Sophie’s story became national news. Now, exactly one year ago to the week, veterinary staff are experiencing a déjà vu with a more tragic ending. Evon Werner, whose dogs are regular clients at both the Center’s Companion Animal Hospital and Club Pet facility, arrived at the hospital yesterday, suffering the loss of one of her beloved pups and injuries to two others after another terrifying, daytime, neighborhood coyote attack. Her 3-year old Jack Russell Terrier named Wyatt heroically protected his canine friends – 2-year old Dachshund, Heiny; 8-year old Toodle, Lily; and 9-year old Shih Tzu, Mikey – but lost his life in the process.

Werner, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, who was understandably devastated, reported that she left her home at approximately 11:00am Wednesday morning to run an errand. All four of her dogs were in the fenced backyard and she returned less than an hour later. Neighbors told Werner that they heard a loud ruckus and ran out to see a coyote leaping over Werner’s 7-foot steel fence. The coyote had killed 3-year old Wyatt – a loving and protective Jack Russell who was incredibly close to Dachshund, Heiny. Heiny suffered bite wounds to his stomach and shoulder and 8-year old Lily had severe wounds to her neck and head.

Daytime coyote attacks are generally rare. Werner hopes that other pet families will be reminded that it is coyote season and that there are some basic precautions pet-owners can take to protect their pets. Helen Woodward Animal Center and the Companion Animal Hospital offer the following tips:

• Use caution from dusk until dawn:
Pets should be kept indoors between the hours of dusk and early morning. If your dog needs to relieve himself during these hours, accompany him on a short leash.
• Avoid taking your dog on a nighttime walk:
Nighttime is the prime time Coyotes hunt for food. If you must take your puppy on an evening walk, use a very short leash.
• Install a fence:
Backyard fences should be at least 6 feet high to prevent coyotes from leaping over. Coyotes are also known to dig, so installing vinyl lattice 2 to 3 feet below ground is suggested to prevent tunneling.
• Leave no food in your yard:
This includes always feeding your dog inside; cleaning the yard of any fallen apples, berries or other fruits from existing fruit trees and; securing the lids on all garbage cans.”

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