Myth #1: Coyotes live in the country or rural areas. (They thrive in cities as large as Chicago.)
Myth #2: Coyotes are shy creatures and won’t approach humans. (There were six reported cases of coyotes approaching and biting humans and 11 reports of human-coyote encounters through September of 2011 in Colorado.)
Myth #3: Coyotes are not pack hunters. (If you read the Chicago link above, you’ll know that coyotes do indeed exhibit pack behaviors.I’ll tell you about a dog getting killed by a pack of coyotes in Aspen later in the blog.)
In yesterday’s blog I mentioned that my six-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback tangled with a coyote about three weeks ago. The incident happened in an open field that’s close to my house. The field is owned by a developer that has not put houses on the land yet. The field is bordered by houses and city features on three sides, open foothills on the fourth side.
I have visited this field a few times, taking the dogs there for a walk or a romp. I go there because I don’t have to deal with the goose poop that litters my local park. When the dogs eat goose poo, they can get a bacterial infection that causes extreme diarrhea.
Additionally, dogs are not allowed off-leash in city parks, even to chase balls, Frisbees or romp with each other. I let my dogs run off-leash in this field to burn off energy on the days I can’t take them for a run.
You might wonder why I don’t take them to a dog park. The closest dog park is a 30- to 40-minute round trip drive and I’d have more time invested in driving than exercising the dogs. Sometimes just 20 minutes of romping is all they need.
When I arrived at the field, I noticed there were no other people walking their dogs in the big rectangular area. Generally, I don’t let the dogs off-leash when there are other dogs or people around. With the coast clear, I let Meeka off leash. Before I had time to let Addie off, Meeka tensed up and took off running like a bullet. I looked up and saw a coyote about 200 to 250 yards away.
Screaming my lungs out for her to “come!” did no good. She responds to the command correctly about 99.5 percent of the time. This was a bad time not to respond.
As I was running toward the pair, still yelling, I saw them touch noses and then a dog brawl broke out. Seeing your dog in an all-out battle is horrible. After only a few rounds, they broke it up and the coyote headed north, Meeka headed back to me.
I was worried about what I would see when she got to me.
When she got to me, I could see a bite on her rear leg. Luckily, the coyote didn’t “hamstring” her. It was a skin wound and not a tendon wound. I’m assuming this is where the term “hamstrung” came from and that is when an animal severs the hamstring of another animal in order to cripple it.
I also noticed a bite in her side, where the coyote got a piece of her skin sliced open and pulled away from the underlying tissue a bit. It was “V” shaped with each leg of the “V” at about ¾-of-an-inch long.
I loaded her into the car and took her to the vet, which was only a few blocks away. When I arrived at the vet, the tech that checked me in asked if I saw any other coyotes. I didn’t, but then I wasn’t looking around much and didn’t see the first one before Meeka saw it.
Just the day before, the vet tech had an experience in eastern Colorado where she lives. A lone coyote enticed her Doberman to chase. Her Dobie, normally good about returning on command, continued to chase the coyote and ignored her calls to “come.”
The tech looked up and realized that the coyote was leading her Dobie back to the pack. She jumped on her four-wheeler and raced to break up the pending disaster. Luckily, she arrived in time and her Dobie wasn’t attacked by the pack.
She told me should I decide to leave the dog off-leash that I needed to be aware that coyotes will lure domestic dogs into a chase. Sometimes the pack sends a playful female in heat to entice dogs to chase or play. Once lured back to the pack, the pack surrounds the dog and kills it. A dog was killed in Aspen last year prompting a statewide alert, which I somehow missed.
City-dwelling coyotes, like the ones in Bel-Air, California, find dogs in a backyard to be easy prey. One was killed on Christmas morning last year.
Meeka ended up with stitches in her hind leg, in three spots. She had stitches and a drain tube in her side. The tube came out in two days and the stitches were removed in two weeks. On the happy day her stitches were removed, she and Addie had a giant play-fest in the back yard.
Somehow, Addie ended up with a slit in her back leg so it was a trip back to the vet that day to get four staples in Addie’s leg. (Hence two dogs in neck donuts.) We inspected the yard for nails sticking out of the fence, sharp corners on the b-b-q grill, etc. We can’t find what caused Addie’s injury. There’s a chance it could have been a play accident caused by a tooth or foot nail.
Both dogs are happy and fine now. My long-term goal is no more vet visits due to injuries. The short-term goal is to make it one month. I’ll build from there.
Knowing what I know now about coyotes, I’m afraid to let the dogs off-leash. I don’t know how that will change, or if it will.