Coyotes go after pets in rural DL area
You may hear them howling at night.
They're the coyote, or brush wolf, and if you think they sound a little too close for comfort, you're not alone.
Some Detroit Lakes residents are noticing that these coyotes seem to be getting closer and closer to city limits, and they are right.
According to Wildlife Biologist Wayne Breninger of the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, the small mammal population is growing around the area, particularly the snowshoe hare, providing a rabbit smorgasbord for the coyote.
"What typically happens is when prey population is up, predator population will grow as well," he says.
The area where most of these coyotes are being spotted is just north of Detroit Lakes, with a spread both to the west and east.
"It's where biomes meet. There is about a 20-mile radius of the convergence of the forests and the prairie, and that is where we are seeing that small mammal saturation."
Brininger adds he's never heard of a coyote attack on a human, even a child, but family pets are easy targets for the coyote.
"This is an opportunistic animal, so if they happen to see a dog or smaller animal, they will take that opportunity for a free meal because it's right there and they probably won't need to expend a whole lot of energy getting it."
Jeff Adkins, of Adkins Farm Equipment found that out the hard way when his three year old chocolate lab was nearly torn apart by coyotes a few months ago.
Adkins has his two dogs with him at work, just on the outskirts of town on Richwood road.
He said when he let his dogs out early that morning, they disappeared around the corner of the building.
"All of sudden I heard one of them just yelping and screeching loud, so I ran back there and saw three coyotes tearing into my youngest dog, Sadie."
With the older, 12-year-old dog, Cocoa, just watching, Adkins started yelling at the coyotes.
Immediately, they ran off, leaving Sadie badly injured and fighting for her life.
The attack lasted only 30 seconds, and yet the damage was horrifying.
"I thought she'd never make it, her body was in shock and she was breathing funny," he says.
But the spirited dog pulled through.
Veterinarian Dr. Randall Lindemann had to sew more than 40 inches of torn flesh back together several times.
He says not all pets are so lucky as to have their owners right there to stop the attack.
"Many times it happens when there is nobody to witness it," Lindemann said, "so we can't prove it is coyotes, we can only suspect it."
Although experts say most coyote attacks happen at night, the one on Sadie happened in the morning.
"I don't know if the coyotes would have attacked my dog unprovoked, but I suppose she went back there barking, thinking she needed to protect her property," Adkins said.
Tom Kucera of the Minnesota DNR says because the coyote is not a protected animal, there is open hunting season on it all year long.
"It doesn't even need to be threatening you or your property, you can kill them anytime," he says.
According to Detroit Lakes Police Chief Kel Keena, there is no ordinance prohibiting residents from shooting coyotes within city limits, but he warns it is not a free-for-all.
"You still have to abide by DNR rules. No shooting out of a vehicle, no shooting from a road or across a road, and you have to be a certain distance away from buildings and livestock," he said. "As long as you abide by those rules, there is nothing saying you cannot shoot them within city limits."
Ed Schmidt is part of a hunting and trapping group around Audubon, and he says coyotes are thicker this year and closer to town than they've ever seen before.
"One of our guys just got one a half a mile out of town, and I've heard they've attacked some dogs, too."
As scary as this situation might be for some pet owners, Kucera says he believes mother nature is already taking care of the problem.
"Mange has been identified in some of the coyotes, so I expect their population to begin thinning out, if it hasn't already begun."
Mange is a parasite that can spread in various coyote populations.
It eats away at the fur, so if they get it early enough in the fall, the mangy animal will be left with an inadequate coat, and they will freeze to death.
Experts say it typically takes a few years for these problem populations to thin themselves out to a number that can be sustained in nature.
In the meantime, they say to just keep an extra eye out for Muffin and Mitsy.