Coyotes in town: DEEP tips on keeping pets safe

Coyote spottings in town are nothing new, though residents can take steps to protect their pets, following reports from nearby towns of dogs getting attacked.

Anna Zakrzewski of Oldfield Road spotted a coyote in her backyard last month, close to Daniels Farm Elementary school.

Zakrzweski saw and took some photos of the coyote Feb. 25.

Coyotes have been spotted in many areas of town, including near Trumbull Center and even crossing Route 111.

Some in the region have reported seeing coyotes that appear much larger and have been called coywolfs. Eastern coyotes are generally larger in size than their western counterparts. Recent genetic testing has attributed the eastern coyote's larger size to interbreeding with Canadian gray wolves, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

According to the DEEP, coyotes will attack and kill pets, especially cats and small dogs, usually less than 25 pounds. Although some coyotes may exhibit bold behavior near people, the risk of a coyote attacking a person is extremely low. This risk can increase if coyotes are intentionally fed and then learn to associate people with food.

Last week in Fairfield an injured coyote attacked a man’s four dogs when he was walking them at Brett Woods open space.

The man told police that the dogs fought with the coyote until he could pull them away. The coyote, he said, was injured and was barely able to walk. The coyote was still in the same spot when police and animal control officers arrived at the scene.

The injured coyote was put down by police and the carcass sent to the state lab for rabies testing.

The incident followed reports of a coyote, believed to be rabid, attacking dogs and cats in northern Stamford neighborhoods.

The best way to protect pets is to not allow them to run free. Cats should be kept indoors, particularly at night, and small dogs should be on a leash and under close supervision at all times, according to the DEEP. The installation of a kennel or coyote-proof fencing is a long-term solution for protecting pets. In addition, homeowners should eliminate other sources of attraction to coyotes including pet food left outdoors, table scraps on compost piles, and decaying fruit below fruit trees.

Coyotes will attack a variety of livestock but sheep and fowl are at greatest risk. Coyotes pose very little danger to horses and cattle. The probability of a coyote attack can be reduced by penning susceptible livestock and poultry at night. Some fences effectively exclude coyotes but require careful maintenance. Guard dogs have been used successfully to reduce coyote depredation. The removal and proper disposal of dead poultry or livestock is highly recommended as a preventive measure. Carrion left in the open may attract coyotes and bring them into close and more frequent contact with live animals. Livestock owners may use trapping or shooting to remove coyotes that have attacked their animal stock.

The DEEP also warns that coyotes should never be fed by humans. Homeowners should eliminate any food sources that may be attractive to coyotes. Clean up bird seed below feeders, pet foods, and fallen fruit. Secure garbage and compost in animal-proof containers.

You can attempt to frighten away coyotes by making loud noises (shouting, air horn, or banging pots and pans) and acting aggressively (e.g., waving your arms, throwing sticks, spraying with a garden hose). Homeowners should realize that if they live near suitable habitat, fencing may be the only method to completely eliminate coyotes from travelling near homes. In rare cases, efforts to remove coyotes may be justified.

“Coyotes are most active at night but may be active during daylight hours, particularly during the young-rearing period and longer days of summer,” according to DEEP “Daytime activity alone is not indicative of rabies. Coyotes appear to have low susceptibility to the “raccoon” or mid-Atlantic strain of rabies found in Connecticut. Coyotes are susceptible to strains of rabies that occur elsewhere in North America and to the other common canine diseases, such as canine distemper. Sarcoptic mange, a parasitic disease, can affect large numbers of coyotes, particularly when the population is dense and the chance of transmission is high. In Connecticut, many are also killed on roadways by automobiles.”