Coyotes Just not a Danger in the Country

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Molly and Dale


In searching for material for a pet column I pen every other week, I found this story about a Maltese named Jake who lived with his owners in a suburban Washington state home.

They returned from work one night to find his decapitated body under their deck. Jake had access to the outdoors through a doggy door, a convenience many working pet parents have for their four legged family members.

Jake’s family home backed up to woods, according to news articles and although Jake’s owners first thought it was a human who had entered their yard and killed their dog, veterinarians who examined Jake’s body said it was coyotes.

Although I know coyotes will kill small pets, I had no idea that during mating season, they will kill animals they feel are rivals, taking the heads of their prey and burying them elsewhere.

Dakota with her Bo-Bo

We never left our dogs out in the yard of our suburban home. When I was a young adult and also had Maltese, they remained crated during the day, as I could go home during lunch. Later, when I worked too far away from home, we left our dogs on hard flooring with newspapers.

While it was tempting to install a doggy door, we were more afraid of “bunchers,” people who steal unattended dogs to sell to research laboratories.

When our neighborhood was the victim of a series of daytime home invasions at one point, we even installed an alarm to further protect our miniature Dachshund, Hershey, who, at that time, was an only doggy child.

We definitely also do not allow our small dogs out here in the rural area. Neighbors have told stories of a Dachshund being picked up by a huge hawk and we are of course, aware of the normal wild predators such as bears, coyotes and even mountain lions, which we believe took our Emma from us.

After learning of the increased danger during coyote mating season, we will definitely be even more on the alert.

Do you live in a suburb where coyotes have been sighted? Were you aware of the increased danger to pets during coyote mating season? Do you have a doggy door or do you keep your dogs in the yard when you’re not at home?  

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29 Responses

  1. Merr says:

    We live in so Cal, the suburbs (developed) and on more than one occasion I’ve seen coyotes near the mailbox, walking down the sidewalk and crossing the street. I understand they follow the water, and we live near a wash (river channel). In our area there are also – yikes – mountain lions, that have on occasion been spotted in neighborhoods. One neighbor’s cat was a victim of a coyote attack, and it was so so sad. The coyotes come looking for food (that is what they do, after all) and cats can’t defend themselves (or dogs, for that matter) against that kind of instinct/drive. I do worry when I see cats outside.

    • kerri says:

      Yes, it is not good for cats (or wild birds) to have outdoor cats, although I do understand, if they’re used to being outside, how hard it is to keep them in.

  2. I’m not a fan of pet doors for a number of reasons, including this risk from wildlife. It happened to one of my sister’s neighbors a couple of years ago. They were out of town. Family was checking in on their small dog, and they found a few pieces of him on the back patio. The coyotes in a surburban area, developed back in the 1960s got him. I think the ones “in town” are more aggressive than the ones we have here in the rural community where I live. Not that coyotes don’t kill dogs and cats here, but they are much more skittish of people or getting too close to the houses.

    • kerri says:

      Oh, that poor dog, Roxanne. Horrible. I also read that coyotes will note schedules, if a dog or cat goes out at a certain time, that’s when they stalk. I also agree with your assessment regarding rural vs. suburban coyotes. I think as with us humans, the more of us they encounter, the less skidish they are.

  3. Jane Boursaw says:

    We do have coyotes here in Michigan, and also bobcats and bald eagles. There’s even been a few cougars spotted. Would definitely keep a close eye on the pets if we had any.

  4. We lost one of our cats to a coyote growing up. Poor cat didn’t go outside very often. When we visited the area again recently, someone warned me not to walk my dog at twilight. I guess the coyotes will approach dogs on leashes even.

  5. Alfredo says:


    I live in Decatur GA, the city adjacent to Atlanta and have a miniature pinscher named Pepe. Even in an urban environment we have large red hawks that fly overhead and live accross the street from us in a small patch of woods. I was walking Pepe through these woods when a large hawk swooped down on us and buzzed Pepe. Fortunately neither of us was harmed. It doesn’t just happen in rural areas…

    • Kerri says:

      What a scary experience, Alfredo. I’m so glad you’re both ok. The Doxie I mentioned in the post was dropped and recovered, but you’re right, these types of things just don’t happen in the rural areas either.

  6. Donna Hull says:

    I didn’t know that about coyotes and mating season. They are certainly a threat to small pets. I’ve heard many sad stories in Tucson, even of a pet being taken while the owner was standing right there.

    • Kerri says:

      I’ve heard of that as well, Donna. It was a cat and the coyote supposedly just ran through the yard and grabbed it up while four people were standing just feet away.

  7. Cynthia M. says:

    Kerri – Great article. You’re right – it’s devastating to lose a beloved pet to predators of any kind. The best thing we can do is to teach each other how to live safely around ALL wildlife.

    It’s easy to villianize predators (a la V. Schoenwald’s comments above) but as several people here have already pointed out, they are a VERY important part of our natural world – despite what some people want to believe – and if we have any hope of living with a natural world that’s even remotely in balance, predators need to be in the mix. Deer and elk – the prey species of the “baddest of the bad” predators, coyotes and wolves – have been know to wreak their own havoc in communities where their populations go unchecked. And no, human hunting (which I’m fully in support of) isn’t enough to control those populations.

    I have many references on living with coyotes (which is applicable to all wildlife) on my website if anyone wants to see what more they can do to keep themselves and their pets (and their neighbors) safe:

    Thanks again Kerri – great article, and great blog!

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you, Cynthia. I completely agree. I’m one that has always believed there is a chain for the natural order of things and that chain is typically only broken, or animals (or insects) become pests when we humans have done something to disconnect the chain.

  8. Sheryl says:

    There are coyotes in my neighborhood; in fact, we spotted one recently strolling down the block, right in the middle of the street. My neighbor told me a bunch of them took down a deer in her front yard, and came back each night to finish it off. I am always surprised that knowing this, most of my neighbors leave their dogs out on invisible fences all day. When I hear the coyotes howling, or a dog squealing, I’m always sure there is something bad in the works…

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, my, Sheryl. I know it is natural and all but I don’t think I could have taken the whole deer meal in the yard thing. It is shocking that people leave their dogs out. I’m not a fan of invisible fences anyway, which require shock collars to work.

  9. Our dog is seventy five pounds of muscle and she is lightening fast (especially considering her size.) I don’t worry about her and she roams freely in our rural area. My parents lived on a farm for many years and they lost at least two dogs to coyotes, but both were small. Their large dogs never were attacked. Coyotes are opportunists and I don’t think they’re looking to take on an animal that could kill or injure them, but would rather snatch smaller dogs who can’t defend themselves, or older dogs who are slower and less agile.

    While I sympathize with anybody who has lost a pet to coyotes, I recognize that they are also a part of wilderness, of the eco-system, and are acting on instinct and hunger, not maliciousness. They also kill rodents like rats and mice and keep those populations under control on prairies and in timber areas. And I must also admit that I love going outside at night and hearing their mournful cries echoing through the night. It always gives me chills and a certain sense of wonder that wild creatures like that still roam the countryside.

    • Kerri says:

      Unfortunately, as with everything else, humans have managed to screw up the habitat of these animals, driving them closer to suburban areas, where people have a false sense of security from such things. I sometimes like listening to the coyotes, but they can be quite eery as well, especially when it is so dark and I have to get from the studio to the house! 😉

      • I can understand that on a walk, even a short one, at night through the woods, their howls might not be so thrilling but more chilling instead! And I think you’re right, Kerri. It’s the constant push of development and urbanization that has brought these wild animals into the backyards of suburbanites where they now are preying on pets.

        Missouri used to have a bounty on them but stopped for a couple of reasons, none having to do with environmentalists. The main one was money, the state simply can no longer afford to pay for coyote pelts as they are easy prey and plentiful for hunters to kill. The other reason for discontinuing bounties is that it didn’t work. No matter how much money was spent, coyote numbers increased. It was an expensive and non-effective way to deal with them.

  10. Alexandra says:

    Did not know of this danger. Since last year, we have fisher cats on Cape Cod. They are supposedly even worse predators than coyotes.

  11. Heather L. says:

    Coyotes have been spotted in nearby neighborhoods. I will definitely be more vigilant when our dogs are out in the fenced backyard.

  12. V Schoenwald says:

    Since the trailer park where I live is very close to the edge of town, yes, I have coyotes, and have seen them in town.
    Coyotes are now getting very brazen in their tatics and behavior, and have a few of their pelts hanging in my home from hunting excursions.
    They used to fear man, now they laugh and raid.
    Because of the greens, the bounty on predators is no more, and their non existence control has only made things more dangerous. We have had incidents where runners and joggers have come into contact with them on their morning runs and the rabies problems are getting out of control.
    I do not let my dog out of my sight, period, from 4 legged or 2 legged predators. I am out with her to go potty and if its nice outside, I have a small enclosed area I have eye contact with and earshot. I trust nothing or no one around here.

  13. Rick says:

    We have 4 Brittanies that are inside while my wife and I are at work. There have been very few indoor accidents. Once home, the dogs are put out into a small fenced area which has a gate to the rest of our acre. If I’m working in the Big backyard, they are allowed to join me. We back up against a large oper area and often hear coyotes in the distance. To date, we haven’t had any concerns, near sightings or issues with the yotes.

    • Kerri says:

      Rick, We used to joke that we saw more wildlife in the city than we do here. I think large rural areas tend to be safer, as the wild animals have more space in which to roam and hunt. We have seen coyotes (well, I saw the bushes moving) close to the house only once. We also typically only hear them in the distance.

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