An incident in Colorado Springs this week reminds us how close wildlife is, and how dangerous it can be to family pets.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife and the Pikes Peak Humane Society confirm that a small dog was attacked and killed by a pack of coyotes Monday. It happened near the intersection of Constellation Drive and Taurus Drive on the city's southwest side.
CPW said the attack happened around 1 a.m. while a woman was walking her two dogs. However, neighbors said the attack happened around 10 a.m. when the coyotes attacked the dog while it was in its yard.
Neighbors said they helped find and recover the dog's remains after seeing several coyotes in the area.
The fact that the attack may have happened in broad daylight and involved more than a solitary coyote makes the incident somewhat unusual, authorities said.
"Coyote attacks on pets (in the city) happen maybe once a month, said Michael Seraphin of CPW. "But that's only what's reported to us. We have no idea how many times that may (actually) happen."
Joe Stafford, Director of Animal Law Enforcement for the Pikes Peak Humane Society, said that agency receives as many as five reports monthly, "where people have seen coyotes that have behaved in a way that they thought was not acceptable to them."
Pat Gans, a neighbor living near the attack area, was out walking her dog, Sushi, on Tuesday night. She said she hadn't heard about the attack and wasn't surprised that it happened.
"I think you always have to be concerned about coyotes," she said. "We're here because of the wildlife, but we have to watch our pets carefully. My dog would be a tender morsel for a coyote."
Authorities said coyotes are much less likely to attack a pet if that pet is on a leash and walking close to its owner. Doghouses and other outdoor enclosures should be secured to keep wild animals out and cats should stay indoors, authorities said.
Stafford discourages pet owners from shooting a coyote if it threatens their pets.
"Once you discharge that firearm, you're responsible for wherever that bullet goes," he said. "Scare (coyotes) away by making loud noises and waving your arms. Consider some kind of walking stick for protection, if necessary."
Seraphin said hunting of coyotes is allowed year-round on public land with a small game permit. A permit isn't required on private land, he said, and trapping isn't allowed in most cases.
You should contact your local law enforcement agency, Seraphin said, to learn what legal rights you have when it comes to shooting a coyote in a populated area. Local laws often vary by community, he said.
"A lot of people consider coyotes to be nuisance animals," said Seraphin. "But they do all kinds of things in terms of rodent control. They serve a beneficial niche in the ecosystem."