Coyote attacks

What makes our town so wonderful, in my eyes, is that it is the perfect combination of urban living and country living. 

Living in such close proximity to nature brings some undesirable encounters with wildlife, though. Wild animals are getting more and more used to humans. Bears and coyotes are not scared of people as they used to be, so many of us find these unwanted guests in our backyards. 

Coyotes are considered carnivores, but more often are omnivores (eating everything). They are opportunistic, versatile feeders, eating small mammals such as squirrels, mice, birds, snakes, lizards, deer, and livestock, as well as insects and other invertebrates. The coyote will also target any species of bird that nests on the ground. Fruits and vegetables can form a significant part of its diet in summer and autumn. 

Part of the success as a species is this dietary adaptability. As such, they have been known to eat human rubbish as well, and domestic pets. They increasingly rely on household pets as their source of nutrition, with cats and small dog at particular risk. Pets are more commonly attacked during the winter months than in spring and summer, which corresponds to the coyote breeding season.

Though they have been observed to travel in large groups, coyotes primarily hunt in pairs. They are often attracted to dog food, and animals small enough to appear as prey. Items such as garbage, pet food, and sometimes feeding stations for birds and squirrels will attract coyotes into backyards.

Coyote attacks are usually fatal for cats and small dogs. If the animal gets away or is saved by the owner, it can sustain significant damage that requires surgical repair and antibiotics for the potential infections caused by bite wounds. Typically, the actual tissue damage of the bite wounds is much larger in the deeper tissues compared to the visible external wounds. This is attributed to the tendency of the predator to stick its teeth in the prey’s flesh and shake its body. Externally, one may only see the teeth marks, however the animal is usually suffering from a much more significant injury. Hence, any bite wound, let alone a coyote bite wound, even if seemingly minor, requires veterinary attention.

If we can not get rid of coyotes, we have to learn to live with them. The best way is by trying to avoid any contact with them. Fences can help to keep them out of your yard, but they have been known to jump over fences. The most effective fence is at least six feet tall, with solid walls that are not see-through, and has a roll bar on top. If you are aware of coyotes in your neighbourhood, try to avoid leaving your dog alone outdoors (especially if it is a small breed).

Some coyotes will attempt to attack a dog on a leash, although not using a retractable leash will reduce the chances of that happening. If you encounter a coyote, try to scare it away. Scream, wave your arms, throw objects at it. Do not run away, as running will elicit an attack. Any injury sustained by your pet requires immediate veterinary care.

Most importantly, keep your property environment free of potential attractions of wildlife. Make sure you don’t leave food outside, including pet food, and make sure your garbage is stored in sealed containers. Feeding stations for birds can also attract, so you may want to rethink having them in your backyard if you live in an area frequented by coyotes.  

As for cats: For their safety, I strongly recommend to keep them strictly indoors. Cats that have never been exposed to the outdoors, will not ‘crave’ going outside. An encounter with a coyote is most probably equal to a death sentence for them. Between coyotes or other wild predators, as well as neighbourhood dogs and vehicles, the outside world is just too dangerous for cats. They are better to stay indoors.  





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About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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