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Coyote attacks on larger dogs becoming unusually frequent

June 10, 2014

Muskego — A local veterinarian suspects pets are in more danger than usual from coyote attacks in Muskego.

Dr. Lee Elger, of the Muskego Wind Lake Animal Hospital, has treated two large dogs, one 60 pounds and the other almost 80 pounds, that have been attacked in recent months. The 60-pound dog was attacked Feb. 5 and again May 3 and the other on March 20. Both dogs have recovered.

They live next door to each other in the 17500 block of West Woods Road east of Janesville Road not far east of Muskego High School.

"It's very unusual for them to go after a bigger dog," Elger said.

Not only that, Kristin Dow, whose dog Kira, a German shepherd-golden retriever mix, was attacked twice, said Kira was very near the deck of their home when it happened. Dow said she didn't see the attacks but came out immediately when she heard barking, and Kira was right at the deck, Dow said. The first time, she saw the coyote running away.

"It's pretty scary," she said.

"They're coming right up to the deck, which is shocking because it means they're not afraid."

Now Dow is more careful than ever about even letting her toddler play in the yard.

"I have a young daughter who's almost 2, so obviously, I'm kind of cautions," she said.

Elger said he also is alarmed about coyotes possibly being on the prowl for pets because more missing dog signs than usual can be seen around the city.

"They're popping up everywhere," Elger said.

Since starting his practice in Muskego in 1973, he said, "I've seen it all come and go."

"But this is getting to be a trend."

Elger advises people to keep an eye on their pets when they are outside, especially in more rural areas of the city.

The coyote bites were relatively superficial on the neighbor dogs, but Kira needed stitches after the second attack. That bite actually left the outline of a mouth with each tooth leaving a red welt, Dow said.

Both times Kira was attacked between 8 and 9 p.m., she said.

The attacks have also left more than just physical marks on Kira.

"She's very nervous; every time she goes outside she looks toward the field where they came from and sniffs everything," Dow said. "She's never unattended anymore."

The family also takes special precautions after dark. "We walk the perimeter with a flashlight so we don't get caught off guard."

Dow actually knows where the coyotes come from. There is a den in a wooded marshy area two houses away, she said. She has heard coyotes chorusing for years, but they never have been a problem before.

Her neighbor could not be contacted.

Tim Lizotte, wildlife supervisor for southeast Wisconsin for the Department of Natural Resources, said that what he called this highly unusual behavior of a coyote attacking a large dog could be one of two possibilities.

"If a family is in an area and marks their territory, and a pet dog is within that area, they may see it as direct competition," he said. But even then, the difference in size would make him believe the coyotes would back off.

"An average coyote is less than 40 pounds," he said. A coyote taking on a 60- or 80-pound dog is unlikely. "It's a big overmatch."

The other possibility is coyote pups being involved, he said.

"This time of year, pups are out and about, and they go with their parents on hunting trips," he said. An overprotective parent might feel that a pet dog is a threat to a pup, he said.

The possibility of coyotes hunting in packs is rare. They typically hunt alone, he added.

The speculations about what might have happened in that stretch of Woods Road wouldn't necessarily explain any higher than normal loss of pets to coyotes.

However, there could be a particularly aggressive coyote on Woods Road that could be trapped and relocated, he said. Residents don't need a DNR permit for that, but trapping should be carried out by a nuisance wildlife removal company.

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