Man attacks coyote, saves his cat

Local veterinarian says only cat to be grabbed by a coyote and returned alive

It was a quiet Sunday morning on Memorial Day weekend and Mammoth Lakes resident William “Billy” Silva was out early walking his two cats.

It was early, before sunrise; “dark thirty” as the former Army paratrooper and pathfinder called it.

The streets of Mammoth were seemingly empty, which is why Silva was out with his cats in the first place—no bears, no coyotes, no ravens, no hawks—no cat killers, in other words.

Except this time, this morning, there was.

“Little did I know that I would soon be in the throes of a life and death struggle with one of Mammoth’s predators, the dreaded coyote,” Silva said. 

It all happened fast—very fast.

His two cats, trained to stay close without a leash, were slightly ahead of him when one of the Ragdoll cats, Snafu, who weighs in at 13 pounds, disappeared around the corner of the building Silva lives at.

Then chaos erupted.

“I had only about 10 to 15 seconds of non-visual on Snafu who had gone around a corner on Mono Street,” Silva said. “I had Fubar, who weighs about 28 pounds, in my arms and I was following Snafu. Then I heard Snafu’s blood curdling wail and as I gained visual, to my horror, he was being snatched by the throat and whipped around like a rag, with the coyote trying to break his neck and carry him away.”

The sight, the sound of the cat he loved and was responsible for screaming in the jaws of a coyote, galvanized Silva.

His military training kicked in and he dropped Fubar and took off at a sprint toward the scene.

“The coyote sensed my presence and tried to run with Snafu through our little wooded area,” he said. “But I am a very physical man and I was angry. Without thought for anything but to save my little guy, I covered about 20-30 meters in a nano-second, trying to head this coyote off.”

But the coyote, Snafu still in his jaws, still crying, was getting ahead.

Then Silva saw what he knew would be his last chance to save his cat.

The coyote was headed off at a diagonal, giving Silva access to the canine if he could just cut him off.

“I launched through the air, using the technique of a defensive back cutting the angle on a wide receiver,” he said. “Doing this, I was able to tackle this coyote, which was still holding my little guy. I started hammering its head and body into the ground with my fists.”

Finally, the coyote dropped Snafu.

But it wasn’t over yet.

Silva had been bitten during his altercation and Snafu, while still alive, was badly hurt.

Silva shot off to his vet, Alpen Veterinary Hospital’s Dr. TeSlaa, who met him on a Sunday at the clinic in Mammoth (and whose office Tuesday confirmed the event happened) and treated the cat for serious bite marks, dislocated teeth, lots of lost fur, and put him on antibiotics.

“He told me Snafu was the only cat he had ever heard of who had been grabbed by a coyote and returned alive,” Silva said with a laugh.

Silva went home and treated his own wounds; minor bites to his forearm, hand and knee.

“We found ourselves back inside watching Sportscenter, as Snafu curled into my lap and drifted off to sleep pumped full of antibiotics and pain meds,” he said.

“As an ex-paratrooper and Pathfinder from the 82nd Airborne out of Fort Bragg, this was one of the most intense and harrowing experiences I have had.

“Thank goodness for the wonderful people of Mammoth Lakes,” he said. “I was able to contact my veterinarian on a holiday weekend, who met us at his office.

“Life, thankfully, goes on for us all, and we are a little more cautious and more aware for our experience.”