BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — If Skittles seems skittish about leaving the back deck to do her business, it’s for good reason. The 12-year-old rescue dog lost her tail on July 16 after what Jennifer Gill and Deb Snow were told was a coyote attack.
“It was 8:00 a.m. and sunny,” recalled Snow. The 60-pound Skittles was in the backyard of the Waterville Meadows property, along with 3-year-old, 85-pound golden retriever Sadie. When Sadie started barking frantically, the dogs were let in. After running an errand, Gill returned and noticed a lot of blood on the floor and on Skittles.
“It looked like a gunshot. There was a hole on her hind leg and her tail was a mess,” Snow said.
Dr. Wendy O’Desky Reichel at the Village Veterinarian said it was definitely a canine bite. With a 4-foot fence surrounding their yard – and several other yards surrounding them – Snow doesn’t believe that another dog got in. The veterinarian believes that a coyote could jump the fence, however.
“This was the third or fourth attack we’d taken in during a two-week period,” said Judy Pittman, practice manager for Village Vet. “When they came in with Skittles, we already had two wounded dogs.”
Skittles had her tail removed and many stitches placed on her back leg.
Jane Klenk’s 10-pound poodle, Gemma, was attacked at 6:30 p.m. in her Waterville Meadows backyard a few weeks ago. Gemma was outside with Klenk’s other dogs. When she heard the dogs raising a ruckus, Klenk went outside to investigate.
“I found the poodle hiding under the grill. She had slobber and dirt all over her neck. When I cleaned her up, I found she had puncture wounds all around her neck,” said Klenk, who rushed the dog to MedVet. With the follow-up appointments, x-rays and medication, Gemma’s vet bill was over $2,000.
During the August 27 Waterville City Council meeting, Waterville Meadows resident Claudette Bretzloff addressed council on behalf of Gill, Snow, Klenk and others who have shared stories about coyotes on a neighborhood social media site.
“We have coyote attacks and I understand that there have been other coyote sightings,” said Bretzloff, who has been keeping a close eye on her 10-pound Havanese. “I’m concerned that people are unaware.”
Police Chief Dave La-Grange said he’s aware of the incidents, and has posted a video on the police website to tell residents how to “haze” the coyotes so they’ll stay away. He contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Re-sources (ODNR) and was told that they will not trap coyotes, but if they continue to become a nuisance, a professional trapper could be hired.
Klenk believes that would be the best option for ensuring that she and her neighbors’ dogs and children are safe.
“They have to do something. I see kids playing all the time without adults,” Klenk said. “I feel it’s a risk and a danger. This won’t go away unless someone does something.”
Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) wildlife communication specialist Meredith Gilbert said that coyote society is very hierarchical.
“As we expand into their habitat, they adapt. If that’s their territory, that’s where they stay, or they have to fight for another territory,” she said.
With Waterville’s woods and fields turning into homes, condos and apartments, the coyotes that have lived there all along, mostly unseen, are adapting but having an impact on the newcomers.
It’s a common misconception that coyote are large and live only in vast open areas, Gilbert said.
“The truth is they live in any habitat, even downtown Chicago. They’re the most adaptive animals I’ve ever seen,” she said. Weighing between 20 and 50 pounds, they are omnivores that dine on everything from garbage and birdseed to rabbits, voles and mice.
She recommends that residents remove any attractants from the yard, including pet food, garbage and even grill grease. Often, a coyote attack, especially on a dog that’s as large or larger than the coyote, isn’t about food, but rather about turf.
“A large dog in its territory could be seen as an aggressor to ward off,” Gilbert said. “A smaller dog or cat could be seen as prey. They don’t differentiate between pets and prey.”
When taking pets outside after dark, scan the area with a flashlight or install motion detectors to check for animals. If a coyote is spotted, make noise or throw rocks.
“Get them to be aware that you’re watching. They’re very secretive for the most part. If they get to the point of not being afraid of humans, that’s when to call a trapper.”
While residents of townships can discharge a firearm or use a bow or trap to kill or capture a coyote, it’s illegal in the city, noted LaGrange.
In the weeks after Skittles was attacked, Gill saw a large coyote on the tracks off Village Parkway.
“It’s unnerving,” she said.
Gill and Snow have taken precautions since, trimming their evergreens at the bottom to eliminate hiding spots, getting strong flashlights to scan the yard and staying outside with the dogs. It’s an odd feeling for the women, who have lived in their home for 13 years.
Klenk, who moved to Waterville four years ago, said she wouldn’t have chosen her home if she had known that coyotes were around.
Raegan Sawyer and her family live near Waterworks Park, and like many River Road area residents, have seen fox and deer, but didn’t know that a coyote was prowling the area until their 22-pound cat, Maggie, didn’t return for dinner one night. Her neighbor saw their lost cat sign and pointed her to the remains near the dugout.
“She wasn’t hit by a car. It was clearly a predatory attack,” Sawyer said. “I can’t fault an animal for doing what it’s supposed to do. If I had known there were more active attacks, I would have stayed more vigilant.”
In addition to posting information on the city’s website and in The Canal Post, administrator Jim Bagdonas said that LaGrange will be contacting ODNR for further information.