Coyotes blamed for pet deaths: TWRA says coyote population stable
By Austin Baird | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Some say there’s a coyote problem in suburban East Tennessee, while others say there’s a people problem.
Count residents of River Run subdivision in Maryville among the former.
The neighborhood, located just off Davis Ford Road, has seen great numbers of cats turn up missing this fall, and according to resident Tara Rasher, coyotes are the prime suspect.
“We hear them at night, and we’ve seen them around the neighborhood,” said Rasher, whose cat is among the seven known to be missing. “They don’t leave any evidence of animals being destroyed, they leave nothing behind. From what I understand, that’s a sure sign of coyotes ... people around here need to be aware of this problem, and they need to only let their dogs out on a leash and if they’re ready for a fight.”
The harshest example of a coyote encroaching on the lives of Blount County residents in recent memory might be that of a Townsend family that had their dachshund attacked and then saw their Chihuahua carried away last week.
The owner of the dogs asked not to be named, as she and a few neighbors in the Bethel Church area plan to disregard hunting regulations and gun down any coyotes they cross paths with at home or elsewhere. They’re even planning to track down dens, she said, and “take care” of the coyotes en masse.
She recalled through teary eyes that her husband let the dogs out when he woke up and stepped inside just long enough to use the bathroom. That was all it took.
“We just heard this awful noise,” she said. Her husband bolted outside in time to see a coyote let go of the family’s dachshund, which was yapping and putting up enough of a fight to save its life, and instead take hold of the five-pound Chihuahua. Coyotes are about the same size as German shepherds, usually anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds in Tennessee, so it had no trouble sprinting away with the dog in tow.
“My husband chased him, but he just took off,” the woman said. “(The coyote) looked like it was going to turn toward him and take a bite, so he went back and got his gun then went up the hill in his truck and looked everywhere. He couldn’t find them.”
Coyotes can run 30 miles per hour in a dead sprint, and the first bite on prey is usually fatal, so there was never much of a chance for the small dog.
“My son stayed out of school, and we just cried all day,” she said. “(The dog) would have been 10 years old in March. And we’re not the only ones around here with similar stories. I know more than a few with similar stories.”
Heart-wrenching stories about, so there is likely little debate that coyotes are a suburban nuisance that need to be expunged with relaxed hunting regulations and the like.
Not so fast, if you ask Pete Wyatt. He’s the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) regional coordinator for East Tennessee, and he insisted anyone who works around animals will balk at the phrase “coyote problem” or the concept of “overpopulation.”
He said the coyote population is stable in the region and the stories, however sentimental, should be understood as cautionary tales of what can happen when you don’t take the steps necessary to protect your pets and livestock.
“(Coyotes) are predators,” Wyatt said. “That means they look for prey. To expect them not to eat an easy meal, like a cat or a small dog, is a lot like giving a kid ice cream then punishing them for eating it.
“You blaspheme the animal for doing what it does instead of taking responsibility for the fact that your home is built in their habitat. Where do you stand in the universe?”
Wyatt said he never lets his Italian Greyhound out of sight when it’s outside and that he takes the time to protect his chickens from snakes, hawks, raccoons, and yes, coyotes.
“That’s what you have to do,” Wyatt said. “Use common sense, and take the time to protect your investment. That goes a long way.”
TWRA lacks resources
While the coyote issue has plenty of back-and-forth debate, the TWRA doesn’t have the resources necessary to set traps for animals that aren’t a threat to humans.
Coyotes, according to Wyatt, have never been known to kill a human anywhere except Los Angeles, and even there it was more isolated than the norm. However, there are resources available for those who want the animals gone from their property, such as Maryville companies like Predators & Prey Wildlife Removal and Orkin.
Some instances of residents taking matters into their own hands, as some in Blount County are considering, have been known to backfire ... figuratively, and literally.
Wyatt offered an anecdote of just such a case: “There’s a true story about a couple guys in Texas who trapped a coyote after they had problems like people will have from time to time here. They wrapped it in duct tape, stuck dynamite on it and it did just what a scared animal does. It ran for cover, but it happened the only place it could hide was under his F-150.”