A pack of coyotes attacked and killed a pet dog in Aspen last Friday, prompting the Colorado Division of Wildlife to remind residents to take precautions in areas where conflicts with wildlife are possible.
An Aspen resident said she and her dog were on a hiking trail when the attack occurred. The woman reported that she was walking her six-month-old Labradoodle in an area where it is legal for pets to roam off-leash when one or more coyotes attacked the puppy after it apparently approached them in a playful manner.
“This is a very unfortunate incident and I feel very badly for this lady,” said Area Wildlife Manager Perry Will. “It is also a sad reminder that pet owners need to keep their pets on a leash and take precautions whenever they walk their pets in areas where they could encounter wildlife.”
Although coyotes are typically shy and reclusive, they are also intelligent creatures that learn to adapt to changing conditions in their surroundings. As Colorado’s growing population continues to encroach on coyote habitat, coyotes can lose their fear of people. Once that happens, coyotes can learn to target pets as prey items and in rare cases, become aggressive in the presence of people.
Division officials also caution that at this time of the year, many coyotes are rearing their young and can be especially aggressive and territorial.
The division considers any coyote that behaves aggressively toward people to be a risk to public safety and will kill the animal if possible. Division officials recommend reporting any conflict with coyotes to the local DOW office.
Although hunting and other lethal and non-lethal methods have been used to control coyote populations, the division believes a public that is educated and informed about living with coyotes and other wildlife species is the most effective way to reduce conflicts.
“Like all of Colorado’s wildlife, coyotes can provide an enjoyable wildlife viewing experience, but this incident is a reminder that people need to keep their distance,” said Will.
Will advises pet owners to keep their pets on leashes when walking them, even if the area does not prohibit walking them off-leash. He also has a few suggestions if you encounter a coyote.
“If a coyote approaches you or your pet, use a loud voice to frighten the animal,” said Will. “Throw rocks or sticks to frighten it away.”
The division also recommends that even around the home, pet owners should keep their pets indoors or in a yard protected by at least a six-foot fence or in an enclosed kennel, and avoid allowing a? dog to approach coyotes at all costs, even if the animals appear to want to play. Often an apparent invitation to play is in reality a prelude to an attack.
Pet owners are also advised to avoid feeding their pets outside, which can attract coyotes and other wildlife such as bears into their yard. In addition, garbage should be kept in wildlife-resistant containers and cleaned regularly with hot water and bleach to reduce residual odors.
Residents of Colorado should keep in mind that as long as there is sufficient food and shelter, many wildlife species will readily utilize habitat in urban or suburban areas. If wildlife has made a home near yours, the division officials strongly recommend taking precautions to avoid conflicts. With a little knowledge and understanding of wildlife behavior and habits, Coloradans can reduce the likelihood of a conflict and live compatibly with native species.