One Tiverton pet owner's worst fears were confirmed last week after the remains of her 12-pound Yorkshire Terrier, Cody, were found bearing the scars of an apparent coyote attack.
Cody, a dark-coated terrier, went missing on the afternoon of Oct. 10 near Highland Road. Despite his owner, Brenda Doster's, best efforts to find him, nature played its course and Cody's body was found yesterday.
"It looks like it was a coyote," she said in an email on Saturday night. "The neighbors claim they have seen many. It may be a good idea to remind people to watch their pets carefully. Coyotes are out there and we learned that lesson the hard way."
Unfortunately for pet owners in the wooded areas of Newport County, Cody's story is not unique.
In late August of this year, Middletown Patch editor Olga Enger took her two Shih Tzus, Mochie and Meatball, for their evening walk up Green End Avenue in Middletown, a routine that is rivaled only by a trip to the bank (which comes with a cookie). Although their regular path cuts through the baseball field behind the Middletown Senior Center, one animal had a different plan for the trio that evening.
Throughout the summer, Enger witnessed glimpses of the creature; the shadow of his tail as he ran across the street, a flash of fur as he jumped into the brush. This time, as if to formally introduce himself, the coyote stood his ground, in the middle of the sidewalk.
Enger knew he was not curious to meet her, but rather her two, over-trusting, well padded companions. As she clapped her hands and yelled, the coyote slowly retreated into the brush.
"His leisurely pace seemed to call my bluff," said Enger in her Sept. 27 article on Middletown Patch. "A human ruckus is a threat only to the the peace and quiet of the neighborhood."
Enger pulled Mochie and Meatball close and retreated toward home. The coyote, never far behind, followed them until we arrived back at the entrance of the Whitehall Farm Development in Middletown, where they live.
The next evening the coyote reappeared where he left Enger and the two Shih Tzus the night before, at the entrance of the development. Every night after that, he lingered at the entrance. Not the heroes - in this particular story at least - Enger and her dogs now drive to the beaches for their nightly walks.
Was the coyote stalking us?
According to Middletown Animal Control Officer Joseph Nunes, the answer is a surprising, yes.
“They are highly intelligent animals,” said ACO Nunes. “People don’t believe it, but they will follow you home.” He said once a coyote knows where dogs live, he will wait for his opportunity to hunt.
Nunes said coyotes are actually quite shy, but they are curious. They have increasingly become more accustomed to humans because they are fed, both directly and indirectly through trash.
He said coyote sightings have been reported this summer, but there haven't been any pet related incidents since last winter. In Middletown, there has never been an attack on a human or a dog on an attended leash.
To give the animal a more effective scare in the future, Nunes suggested to walk with something that makes noise like a can.
Although coyotes live in packs of 10 to 12, they will hunt in pairs or alone, said the officer. They will jump over fences and go into yards for food, even if a pet owner is nearby.
“They are like a dog, that has been highly trained by the wild for generations.”
Despite comforts like Starbucks coffee and Patch newsletters, there is an animal kingdom in our backyards. Through the domestication of dogs and other animals, we have entered their kingdom, and we don’t always set the rules.
Tips for co-existing with coyotes
- If you are walking small dogs, you can walk with something that makes noise to scare off a coyote.
- Do not leave small dogs on leash outside unintended.
- Keep dogs on a leash at night at all times. Coyotes are fast and will take a pet even with an owner nearby.
- Never feed coyotes. This is teaches the animals to not fear humans.
- Do not leave out food or feed pets outside.
- Secure trash; the population will regulate itself when food supplies become scarce. When the population grows in residential neighborhoods, it is typically because they have plenty of food.
- Keep cats indoors at all times. Bring small dogs inside at night, and accompany them in areas with coyote sightings.
- If a coyote is staring at or following you, he probably has had previous contact with humans and thinks you are going to feed him.