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DENISE CROSBY: Attack puts spotlight on coyote problem

A coyote feasts seed bread meant feed birds backyard local home. |Sun-Times MediFile Photo

A coyote feasts on seed and bread meant to feed birds in the backyard of a local home. |Sun-Times Media File Photo

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Coyote tips

The city of Aurora offers some tips on how to keep coyotes at bay.

According to the city, the most effective way to prevent attacks is to eliminate feeding coyotes either intentionally or accidentally. Coyotes can be attracted to bird and squirrel feeders, bread that is fed to ducks and geese, pet food that is left outside, and other unintentional food sources.

If a coyote is spotted during the daytime, people should exhibit caution since the animal may have become habituated to humans and thus more likely to attack, city officials said. People approached by a coyote should yell, wave their arms or throw an object at the animal – but should never run away. It is also a good idea to carry a walking stick when in areas that could be inhabited by coyotes. Young children should not be left unattended in areas where coyotes may live.

It is important that family pets such as dogs and cats – especially those smaller in size – not be left unwatched while outside, according to city officials. Coyotes can also be attracted to free-ranging domestic and feral cats. Domestic cats should be kept inside and feral cats should be spayed or neutered.

Coyotes are attracted to cluttered areas including brush piles and old construction sites so keeping those types of areas clear will help prevent them from lingering in a particular area.

Updated: March 12, 2014 6:16AM

My first thought was heart attack.

“Are you OK?” I calmly asked my husband, who’d just returned from hauling out some garbage and was bent over the kitchen table inhaling huge chunks of air.

“It’s adrenalin,” he gasped. “I just went at it ... with a coyote ... in the driveway …”

So OK, that wasn’t quite the response I expected, but I sure as heck was relieved I would not have to call 911.

Or would I?

“A coyote!” I shrieked when it finally registered what he’d said.

According to the story, as told by the man formerly known as Bob, he’d just lifted the lid to the garbage can sitting right outside our garage door, when he heard a ferocious commotion. He turned to see the wild animal in a knock-down drag-out with his oversized Wheaton terrier, which had followed him outside.

Bailey is a true alpha dog when it comes to defending his homeland (just ask my grown kids’ mutts) and according to his master’s eyewitness account, he was holding his own with the coyote that was a few pounds heavier.

My husband, whose love for his dog ranks up there with grandkids, began kicking the coyote in an attempt to break up the battle. But every time he’d get some air between the two animals, Bailey would go back after his opponent.

That’s when my husband decided to take matters into his own hands … literally.

He reached down and grabbed the coyote. With one hand on its scruff and the other on its lower back, he picked up the animal and did one of those Olympic discus throws before hurling the beast 10 feet into a snowbank.

Then he successfully ordered Bailey back in the house and turned to face his opponent, which took one step toward him while engaging in a staredown. That’s when my husband released a primal yell that no doubt rivaled “Dances with Wolves” ... and soon led to one of his several new monikers.

“I had so much adrenalin going,” Coyote Man told me later, “I think I could have gone through a brick wall.”

Luckily, the animal turned and walked away. We were also fortunate in that we counted only two bites, both of which were on the smaller coyote fighter that was up to date on his rabies shots.

But it could have been so much worse, according to the veterinarian and animal control expert I spoke with later.

In addition to rabies, coyotes can carry all sorts of nasty diseases since they are feeding off other wild animals that in turn are chock full of nasty parasites.

And this time of year, even in less harsh winters, those food sources are drying up for those coyotes, said Kane County Animal Control Administrator Robert Sauceda. That means these coyotes are looking for “easy opportunities to get something to eat.”

Which is probably why so many of us have had our own— though not-so-close — encounters with them on bike paths, backyards or even patios. Go on any website, including Kane County Animal Control’s, and you can find all sorts of information about how to deal with these pests encroaching more frequently on our suburban terrain.

That includes “hazing” them with sticks, loud noises or lots of yelling and jumping up and down.

That primal scream is one thing my husband did right.

“It is probably not a good idea,” both experts told me, to get in between a coyote or your pet.

“I can certainly understand he would do anything to protect his dog,” said Sauceda, adding it would have been better to grab the garbage can to stop the fighting animals.

The best way to protect your pets, they also advised, is to keep them in a fenced area or on a leash. Sugar Grove Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Craig Zabel pointed out coyotes attack only what they believe to be prey, in this case, a small pet. He told me his hospital doesn’t see that many coyote bites because most dogs (or cats) that are attacked “are killed or taken off. So we really don’t know how often it happens.”

Sauceda left me with another dire warning: The coyote could easily return, not for another round with Bailey but because he “might be stalking your smaller dog.”

Certainly this is one pooch-loving family taking more precautions than ever. That includes dogs always on leashes and limited physical contact with wild beasts of prey.

Although you have to admit, coyote throwing does make for a great animal tale.

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