Coyotes in the City: Are Pets Safe?

Coyotes in the City: Are Pets Safe?
Coyotes must smell goat at Wrigley Field? Photo by Will Byington, Chicago Red Eye

Coyotes terrify people. Here's a comment and question relating to coyotes and pets form my Tribune Media Services newspaper column. Increasingly, I'm receiving questions about cats or dogs being killed by coyotes. I undersand the anger, but believe it may be misplaced. Perhaps, pet owners should be angry at themselves for allowing small dogs in yards unsupervised and cats outdoors to roam, especially at night. 

Q: I know you advocate keeping pets indoors, and I'm writing to urge your readers to do so, as dangers exist that we don't even realize. Dakota the cat came into our lives eight years ago. He was about 6 months old, with an infected toe that our vet had to amputate. He probably entered our home because he was injured and knew he needed to heal, and as soon as he did, he went back to being mostly an outside cat.

Dakota was never that comfortable in our house. He was soon eating and sleeping at a neighbor's house, and was often found sunning himself at the edge of their yard. People walked by with their dogs and children. When they stopped to see Dakota, he'd get up and greet them, rubbing against human and animal alike.

Dakota was a friendly character with a sweet disposition, nonchalantly enjoying living mostly outdoors, and we were complacent about it. After all, we live in a well-populated, non-rural city, in a safely-lit neighborhood. It never occurred to us to worry about coyotes. Unfortunately, for our beloved neighborhood cat, we were wrong.

Readers, please keep your pets inside (especially at night), safe from vicious predators, so you won't have to experience the grief we're dealing with now. -- C.W., Palm Harbor, FL

Q: Sometimes we see cats wandering around outside, presumably let out for the night. We know that these poor cats can be hit by cars, get into fights with other cats or even attacked by rats. (No kidding; have you seen the size of Chicago rats?) Now, with coyotes sighted even in Chicago, why don't people realize that letting their cats outside is a death sentence? -- C.F., Chicago, IL.


A: I don't blame the coyotes; they're merely trying to survive. Coyotes are highly adaptable and will dine on anything they can find -- which can include our pets. I'm sorry for your loss, C.W., but enormously grateful you decided to tell your story.

Recently, coyotes hanging out in Chicago were photographed near the Ernie Banks statue at Wrigley Field. They were apparently not bothered by street traffic and city noise. Healthy coyotes are not so brazen as to attack small dogs on a leash. If a coyote does approach, however, simply scoop up your dog and holler at the coyote. Small dogs may be attacked when left unsupervised in yards. Cats who can't scamper to a tree fast enough have also been killed by coyotes. Of course, cats cannot be hit by cars, or attacked by birds of prey, stray dogs, or coyotes if they're kept indoors.

Coyotes can be pesky, getting into garbage. But also in many places, their diet features rodents. I can't speak for other cities, but due to last year's mild winter and budget cuts in rodent abatement, the rat population in Chicago has surged. Aside from feral cats, coyotes are the only other significant predator for these pests.

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

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