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Coyote patrol: Police keep pet owners informed

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The sound outside their Greenwood home was like nothing he’d heard before, and by the time he reached the back door, he saw something attacking their dog.

John Durbin banged the back door, trying to get a coyote — the first they had ever seen outside their home — to drop 7-pound Buddy. The coyote ran away, and Carolyn Durbin picked up her wounded Yorkshire terrier and took him to a veterinarian, who found he had broken ribs and bites on much of his neck.

Buddy survived, but since the attack in October, Carolyn Durbin has heard of about 10 other coyote attacks in Alden Place, her neighborhood on the southwest side of Greenwood. And for some of her neighbors, their dogs were killed or vanished.

Police have been getting reports of coyote sightings and attacks on pets for years.

This year, in preparation for winter — when coyotes’ typical food sources, such as rabbits and mice, aren’t as available — the Greenwood Police Department was proactive in providing information about the city’s coyote population. The department created a new website tracking coyote sightings and attacks and posted fliers at veterinary offices and pet grooming businesses in the city, Greenwood Police Chief John Laut said.

The flier warns that coyotes are attacking pets in Greenwood and directs residents to the police department website to report sightings and attacks on dogs, cats, ducks and other pets. The goal is to keep people posted on where coyotes are often spotted so they can protect their pets, Laut said.

During mating season, which is also in the winter, coyotes find dens near their food sources and don’t tend to leave an area unless they lose their food supply, he said.

Nearly 170 coyote attack and sighting reports have come from people in Greenwood and the

Center Grove area since the website was launched Dec. 4. The police department hasn’t tracked attacks and sightings in the past and doesn’t know if that’s an increase over last year, he said.

The new map, which is updated daily, has gotten more than 25,000 visits so far.

Jeff Udrasols, a veterinarian at Meridian Veterinary Clinic & Hospital in Greenwood, can’t remember many patients in past years that coyotes had attacked, but he doesn’t think that means attacks are now more frequent, he said. Concern about coyotes seems to be growing, so pet owners go to the vet more aware that a coyote could’ve hurt their dog, he said.

In 2013, the vet clinic treated three dogs that were attacked by coyotes, and Buddy was the only survivor, he said.

The police department flier is hanging at the clinic because the staff wants to help pet owners keep their animals safe, he said.

Nothing new

The issue isn’t new to the city. In 2012, the Greenwood City Council considered banning feeding of squirrels, birds and other animals to help reduce food sources for coyotes in the city. The ban fell through, and the police department can’t do much to manage the coyote population beyond suggesting ways to keep pets safe, Laut said.

Residents in the city are not allowed to shoot coyotes, but if they call the police about an aggressive coyote, officers can kill it. In December, an officer shot a coyote that appeared to be stalking three homes where small dogs lived, Laut said. The coyote was sitting in a yard during the day and didn’t seem frightened of the officers, he said.

“If a coyote is not fearful of humans, then it’s a danger,” he said.

Knowing surroundings

If homeowners know where coyotes have snatched pets or been spotted, then they can stay with their dogs when they take them outside at night, he said. They also can make sure they’re not attracting coyotes by providing a source of food, such as open trash cans or a dog’s food bowl, he said.

Durbin no longer lets her dog go out in the yard alone. She also carries a flashlight with her when she takes Buddy out because she’s heard that bright lights and noise, such as the banging door, scare coyotes, she said.

The attack on her dog occurred about 7:30 a.m., and that worried Durbin because young children in the neighborhood were standing outside at bus stops, she said.

The police department hasn’t gotten reports of coyotes attacking people but have increasingly heard of pets that have vanished or were left bloodied in their yards, Laut said.

The reports have come from all across the city, from Old Town to the more rural southwest side, Greenwood Police Sgt. Doug Roller said.

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