Last Wednesday morning, we received a call from a citizen who was driving on 58 East about a mile from the shelter. The caller said that a large dog had just been hit by a car and was lying injured near the side of the highway. Two shelter employees left immediately to help the dog.
A few minutes after they left, the City Manager’s office called to ask for our help. A citizen called to tell them that a wolf (or maybe a coyote) had just been hit by a car on 58 East, about a mile from the shelter. We knew if the injured animal really was a coyote or wolf, all we could do was to call the police department for help in sending the animal to heaven quickly and painlessly.
As it turns out, it was a coyote that had been hit, and by the time employees arrived, she had already died. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the coyote population in Virginia continues to grow and is distributed throughout the state, even though it is thought that more coyotes live in the area west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Coyotes are a threat to cats kept outside, as well as small dogs. There have been some cases of coyotes even attacking small dogs that are being walked on leashes.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries suggests that “Small dogs and cats should be kept in an enclosure when kept outdoors in order to prevent coyotes from attacking and killing a pet animal. Even though a fence may dissuade coyotes from attacking your pet, be aware that coyotes can jump over fences less than 7-feet high and can climb over taller fencing that does not have an outward slanting overhang.” (From www.dgif.virginia.gov.)
This certainly is not an issue that should cause undue concern or cause people to panic; we do not have hordes of coyotes in each neighborhood that are waiting to attack humans and their pets. However, it is not a bad idea to exercise caution. It is better to take a pro-active approach to staying away from coyotes and encouraging them to leave inhabited areas. My sister tells me that she has seen a couple of coyotes in her neighborhood, and there have been sightings of single coyotes in parks.
First and foremost, cats are safer inside. Small dogs should also not be left outside by themselves. All dogs and cats should have rabies vaccinations that are kept current. Dogs that are chained outside are also at risk of being attacked by coyotes.
If a food source is provided (even unintentionally through feeding pets outside), a coyote may become more comfortable in staying around your house. That is not a good thing, because the coyote may become more aggressive. Take steps to secure garbage cans, and prevent small prey from staying around your house; they can attract hungry coyotes.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries also offers some good advice about how to make coyotes feel unwelcome. They suggest you find a place that keeps you safe from the animal, and then yell while throwing non-food items in the direction of the coyote.
We are saddened by the number of reports we get about missing cats, especially in Pittsylvania County, and suspect that coyotes and foxes may be part of the reason.
It is always safer to stay away from wild animals, and it is safer for your pets to take steps to keep them away from them also.