A West Kelowna resident whose home backs onto Mt. Boucherie witnessed an unsettling scene Sunday morning when a coyote stole her dog right from inside her fenced yard.
Laurie Gottenbos says she had just let Sophie out for a few minutes when she looked out the window to see a coyote holding her small dog in its jaws.
“I’ve seen deer up there, but never have I seen a coyote around that area,” says Gottenbos, who lives on McCallum Road.
“I don’t know how it got in, I have no idea. It could have come up from the road, I just don’t know.”
Gottenbos says her yard is surrounded by six-foot high deer fencing, and her dog weighs roughly 13 pounds. She tried to chase the animal in the hopes it would drop Sophie, but to no avail. Neighbours in the area also helped look for her dog but nothing was ever found.
“This thing did not look scared. Even when we were yelling and screaming and trying to get it to drop her, it just sort of sauntered away like nothing,” she says.
“About 10 minutes later we heard the kill sound, and you know when you hear that, there’s no going back.”
There are other pet owners in the neighbourhood, but everyone seemed surprised that the coyotes were coming so far down into the subdivisions. Those who ventured up the hill to look for the dog also were “shocked” at the number of coyote tracks found in the area.
According to Frank Ritcey of Wildsafe BC, in the entire province Conservation received around 880 calls for service regarding coyotes from April to September of 2013, that is a 25 per cent increase over last year, with 250 calls being reported for pet related incidents.
"It is not that there is that many more coyotes perhaps, it just may be that more people are aware of coyotes. If there is a high profile case more people call conservation, so after this story runs we may see a spike in calls as well because coyotes are on people's mind."
But to Gottenbos, who has never seen what could be referred to as dangerous wildlife near her property, the vision of her dog being carried away by a coyote is one she'll never forget.
“The last sight we saw is it going towards the shed and then it disappeared behind the shed. There’s fencing all along there, so the only thing I can think of is it jumped the fence."
Ritcey says coyotes are opportunistic hunters and will hunt at any time of day, although they prefer to stalk their prey at night or in the early morning or at dusk.
Because coyotes don't hibernate Ritcey suggests pet owners be vigilant at all times of the year. He suggests the following to keep pets safe:
- Take pets in at night
- Keep the yard free of attractants, such as pet food or garbage
- Don't feed wildlife, especially coyotes who've been known to bite humans when they no longer fear them and have been fed by them
The coyote has adapted and expended their hunting range and are well known for their ability to live in urban settings, says Ritcey. It is the coyote's ability to effectively hunt small pets and livestock that leave Gottenbos feeling uneasy and wanting to warn her neighbours.
“That’s why I wanted to get it out there. I know there’s animals around, I know we live with deer in a natural area and you need to be cautious, but I had no idea it would be that bold to come down into the yard.”