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Recent coyote killing of pet dog in Colorado not likely in Mammoth

June 6, 2011

A coyote near the Long Valley area. Times file photo

BUT STILL, KEEP YOUR DOG CLOSE,
SAYS STEVE SEARLES
Everyone already knows to be careful of bears and mountain lions around Mammoth, but coyotes?

News that a coyote recently killed a very large dog right in front of its owner’s eyes recently in Colorado prompted the Times to talk to Mammoth’s wildlife expert, Steve Searles.

Searles was once employed by the Town of Mammoth Lakes as an animal control specialist when the town’s coyote population was several times what it is today.

“I’ve never heard of a coyote attacking a grown adult, but dogs, yes,” he said.

“The best thing you can do is to keep your dog close to you, and if it is attacked, to make as much noise as possible, throw something at it, whatever it takes. That’s why it’s important to have a dog that comes when it’s called.”

Coyotes are known for luring a domestic dog out away from safety, say by a “vixen howling her heart out,” Searles said. Then, several coyotes attack the outnumbered dog.

He said that Mammoth residents who have lost their dogs or pets to coyotes tend to go for “the coyote was here first” response, something he doesn’t necessarily agree with.

“I’d certainly let someone know,” he said. “When an animal takes a pet, it’s worth knowing about.”

But he doesn’t think Mammoth is likely to have much of a problem, even as news of coyote predation on small children (in Denver) and on pets increases in other parts of the country.

“Mammoth’s coyote population was once much greater than it is now,” he said. “We essentially had a feeding program going on out there, with open dumpsters. It got out of hand. A lot of coyotes had to be destroyed.”

Through education and with the use of new dumpsters, the number of coyotes hanging out in the Mammoth Lakes Basin is now about a dozen, he said.

“Given that their principal food is the small rodents, the voles, the squirrels and mice, and that our lawns and gardens keep those populations healthy, coyotes don’t have much incentive to take on bigger prey,” he said.

“But they are still wild animals and they should be treated with caution and respect.”

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