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Fairfielders warned: Coyotes on the prowl for pets

Updated 8:24 pm, Thursday, June 14, 2012

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  • A group of coyotes caught on camera behind the Fairfield Animal Shelter on One Rod Highway. Photo: Contributed Photo
    A group of coyotes caught on camera behind the Fairfield Animal Shelter on One Rod Highway. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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Five dogs believed to have been killed in Fairfield by coyotes is prompting town animal control officials to urge residents to keep a sharp eye on their pets.

The coyote attack took place June 6, when a Mountain Laurel woman found her beagle dead in her front yard, according to Animal Control Officer Paul Miller. Though the home's backyard was enclosed in an electric fence, the owner did not put the electric collar on the beagle and she believes the dog left the yard under the fence.

Miller said the incidents all are concentrated in the Mountain Laurel-Galloping Hill road areas of town.

"We're urging dog owners to supervise their pets," Miller said Wednesday. "We haven't had any dogs attacked while they were with human beings. They seem to be going after dogs that are alone."

Eastern coyotes were first documented in Connecticut in the 1950s, and Miller even recently snapped nighttime photos of the dog-like creatures behind the animal shelter on One Rod Highway.

According to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, coyotes are common throughout the state and can be found in a variety of habitats.

Coyotes resemble a small, lanky German shepherd with wide, pointed ears, a long muzzle, yellow eyes and an uncurled, bushy tail carried low to the ground. They typically weigh between 30 to 50 pounds.

"They can look like a wolf," Miller said.

Anyone who sees a coyote in Fairfield that they think poses a danger to animals or humans should call 911, he said. If the animal is not being aggressive or is spotted in woodlands, Miller said, there is no need to call police.

Miller said his department receives about two or three calls of coyote attacks a year, adding that local animal control officials are working with the DEEP to see what options are available to help curtail aggressive coyote behavior. However, he said, there are no plans to hunt or trap the coyotes.

"They are everywhere and they respond to food," Miller said.

He advised pet owners not to feed their cats or dogs outdoors. The coyotes are attracted by food of all kinds, he said, noting that there has even been a report of a coyote eating candy dropped in a driveway.

Most importantly, Miller said, pets should be on a leash and supervised when outside, especially at night.

DEEP tips on preventing attacks by coyotes suggest that anyone walking with a dog who encounters a coyote should try to keep the dog under control and -- without running or turning your back -- calmly leave the area.

Coyotes also can usually be scared off by shouting or blowing an air horn, arm waving, throwing sticks or spraying it with a hose. Children should be taught to recognize coyotes and go inside -- again, don't run -- or climb onto a swing or deck if they are approached by a coyote.

More tips can be found at www.ct.gov/dep/wildlife.

greilly@ctpost.com; 203-556-2771; http://twitter.com/GreillyPost