Hillside Coyotes Kill Pets

VANISHED: Dogs and cats go missing; people believe someone is snatching them.

Anchorage Daily News / Letters to the Editor / October 6, 2003


The call of the wild may be getting little too loud on the lower Hillside off Abbott Loop Road, where roaming coyotes -- and maybe a person or two with a trap -- have apparently developed a taste for people's pets.
Two coyotes killed and partly consumed a puppy running in the woods near its owners off Coyote Trail in the federal Campbell Tract within Far North Bicentennial Park. Between eight and 12 cats and dogs have disappeared from the Zodiac Manor neighborhood just to the south.

"It's a weird little episode here, and I'm worried about the animals," resident Carol Klein said. "It's way too much. It's above and beyond the normal."

"My guess is a fair number of those are probably due to coyotes," added state biologist Rick Sinnott, who examined the remains of the puppy. "They're certainly active over there and have shown themselves willing and capable of killing a dog, at least a 20-pound dog."

In the incident, about two weeks ago, a 6-month-old German short-haired pointer bounded away while its owners walked along the trail with an older dog. Then came the awful yelps.

Thinking that a bear was attacking their dog, the couple dashed to the Bureau of Land Management's field office and returned with law enforcement ranger Brad Honerlaw.

They found the female puppy dead in the woods, with two coyotes slinking away into the trees.

"I didn't get a very good look at them," Honerlaw said. "They circled out about 30, 40 yards and kind of looked back at us."

The owners, who asked that they not be identified, were devastated, Honerlaw said.

"We think it's tragic," said Donna Grindle, spokeswoman for the BLM's Anchorage field office. "But we do know that we have wild animals in general out there, and that's why we absolutely encourage and insist that people keep their animals on leash."

During the same period, animals have been vanishing from the neighborhood about a mile to the south, at the southwest corner of thousands of acres of parkland. The situation has become increasingly bizarre, said Jack and Carol Klein, whose bold and friendly black-and-white cat named Cowboy disappeared.

The missing pets include a terrier that was tied up in a back yard and a tiny, shy cat that had been declawed and never roamed. People are rattled, posting signs and placing "lost" ads.

"What the heck is going on here?" Carol Klein said. "I realize that everybody who lets their animals run around loose has to face the consequences, but it's just a rash of disappearances."

The Kleins say they suspect someone has been snatching some of the pets and letting them loose elsewhere in town. Two animals later turned up far from home, one in Eagle River and one at municipal animal control.

At the same time, people have been catching glimpses of coyotes in the neighborhood, Jack Klein said. Though no one has seen any remains or an attack, could coyotes actually be preying on pets in their yards?

"We're just following any leads that we get," Klein said. "It's a 50-50 shot at this point. The whole story should be built around 'Guard your animals' because either there's a coyote or there is some crank out there."

Another neighbor, Pixie Seibe, said she is skeptical that coyotes are killing pets in people's yards without being seen. But last May, she had her own strange encounter with the wild canids while walking her two large dogs on a leash in Ruth Arcand Park, just to the southwest.

"I did see four coyotes that I would have to say as having stalked me," she said. "They were pretty close and kept coming closer. They followed me for like 45 minutes."
She saw another coyote a few weeks ago, but it took off.

Sinnott, area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said people should remember that Anchorage is home to a menagerie of predators big and small. To them, pets look like fast food.

For instance, he said, "Foxes kill cats. People have seem them trotting around with cats in their mouths. Down by Westchester (Lagoon), there's an active den and they work that area pretty good. Usually, if you see a lot of 'cat missing' signs, you know there are foxes in the area."

Coyotes -- agile and fast, smart and sneaky -- may have the widest range of all. "They're just very adaptable, and if they have a place to hide, they can do very well," he said.

"I'm just kind of monitoring the situation right now. ... But we're probably not going to do anything until they get to the point where they're predictably focused on pets."
Daily News reporter Doug O'Harra can be reached at do'harra@adn.com .

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