Three Ahwatukee pet owners are mourning the loss of their animals after separate attacks by coyotes in their backyards in the last month.
And while the Arizona Fish & Game Commission and Dr. Jeffrey Jenkins, medical director and owner of Ahwatukee Animal Care Hospital and Pet Resort, said such attacks have not increased, they said the attacks serve as a warning to anyone who owns a cat or dog weighing less than 20 to 25 pounds.
“Don’t let them out without an escort, especially at night,” Jenkins said.
Added Fish & Game spokeswoman Amy Burnett: Tell your neighbors not to make coyotes feel at home by taking photos if they’re in your backyard instead of making noise or taking other measures to shoo them off.
“We get numerous reports every week about coyote attacks,” Burnett said, “But that’s because we have more people living here.”
While generally harmless where human beings are concerned, coyotes simply are doing what they do: preying on small animals.
“By leaving small animals unattended in the backyard, you’re inviting them to dinner,” Burnett added.
Jenkins said in the past week or so, he treated a cat and a small dog that were attacked in different Ahwatukee neighborhoods.
While the dog will probably survive, the cat didn’t make it.
Coyotes generally attack dogs around the neck, but “coyotes for some reason eviscerate a cat’s abdomen,” he said.
Two dogs were killed in the last three weeks after they had gone into their backyards through pet doors.
“I had no idea knew a coyote could jump so high” over a wall, said Fred Battista, who lives in the vicinity of 14th Avenue and Chandler Boulevard in Club West. “People should be aware of that.”
He and his wife lost their beloved terrier Oscar, their pet for 13 years, about three weeks ago after the dog had gone into the backyard around 6:30 a.m.
Battista heard a noise and saw the dog between the coyote’s jaws.
“When he saw me, he took off in one leap” over the wall, he said.
A similar incident occurred Oct. 12 at the home of Mike Wilson’s daughter, who lives around 44th Way.
The killing of her 11-pound Yorkie upset Wilson as much as it did his daughter.
“A week has gone by and we’re still in mourning,” Wilson said. “To die so viciously and violently really upsets me.”
One man who lost his pet said he felt like getting a and shooting them, but Phoenix Police Det. Luis Samudio said that would be a big mistake.
Police will only shoot an animal “posing an immediate danger to the employee or the public when other means of protection are impractical,” Samudio said, adding:
“Keep in mind that if someone is firing a weapon in city limits, it’s a Class 6 felony.”
Neither police nor Maricopa County Animal Control respond to calls about coyotes – nor does Fish and Game, unless they hear a report of a coyote making aggressive moves toward humans.
If it had to remove coyotes just for prowling around, Burnett said, “We would have to remove 75 percent of the coyote population from Maricopa County.”
She called coyotes are “cunning, highly adaptable” animals. Burnett said “habituated coyotes” are much like dogs looking for a treat.
“If they see they can get away with taking a small pet in the backyard, they will keep on doing that. We’re rolling out the red carpet for them leaving small pets in the backyard,” she said.
The commission’s website advises:
“Generally, coyotes frequent a home or neighborhood if they find food, water or shelter. Food can include unattended pets, birds or rodents attracted to bird feeders, pet food, garbage or fallen fruit.
“Water sources can include a pet’s water bowl or a swimming pool. Shelter can include a storm drain or any cave-like area beneath a shed, a porch or unused building.”
Further adding to the red carpet treatment coyotes think they’re getting are people who do nothing – or even take photos – when they see one in their neighborhood.
It advises people to make loud noises, preferably with pots and pans or shake a soda can with pebbles in it – which it dubs a “coyote shaker.”
Wilson said he discovered, albeit too late, that ammonia is a repellent and that people who take their dogs for a walk should consider carrying a squirt gun filled with it to show them away.
Burnett said ammonia-filled “super soakers” are best because they fire off a stream of the chemical at longer distance than a smaller water pistol.
But she warned that putting ammonia around the backyard will only temporarily keep a coyote away.
Burnett said “getting it in their hair where they have to smell it all day will make them associate a backyard with a bad experience and they likely will avoid that backyard because they’ll remember that bad experience,” she said.
Another effective way to keep coyotes out of the backyard is to install so-called “coyote rollers” atop backyard fences and walls that keep the animals from getting purchase to complete their leap over them.
But again, Burnett said, “they have to be installed along the top of the entire wall.”
“They are smart and they will see figure out where they can leap,” she said, calling walls “super highways for coyotes because they can travel along them and see what backyards have pets in them.”
The rollers are available only online and are expensive, Burnett said. And a homeowner might need HOA permission to install them.
Like meetings that some homeowner associations have held in recent years on roof rats, Wilson thought someone should organize community town halls in Ahwatukee to discuss the coyote problem.
Fish & Game representatives have addressed such meetings in the past in other parts of the county.
Burnett also said there’s no validity to some residents’ theory that South Mountain Freeway construction has sent more coyotes into Ahwatukee, noting that in one year, Peoria had close to 80 small pets killed by the predators .
“The fact is coyotes feel invited and disinviting them has to be a neighborhood-wide effort,” she said. “You have to chase them away, not stand there and do nothing or take their picture because they’ll figure, just a like a dog with a treat, that it’s all right for them to be around.”