A 75-pound dog was killed Wednesday night near the Boston Post Road in Madison by what appears to be a coyote, the owners of the dog say.
The owners of the dog asked that we post a reminder to people that even large animals in densely populated areas can fall prey to coyotes.
"Our dog was attacked and killed last night, almost definitely by coyotes," said Kathi Traugh via email. "This is not news (of course), but thought it would be good for people that live nearby to know that there are coyotes out there this spring. He was a big dog (75 lbs) but old, which was probably why they went after him. I live on the Boston Post Rd, right near West Cemetery. So being close to town is no protection."
Unusual but not unprecedented
Traugh asked that we post the information as a "neighborly heads up."
Chris Vann, Nuisance Wildlife Biologist, with the Connecticut Wildlife Division of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said such an attack is unusual but not unprecedented.
"Coyote attacks on a large dogs, like the one in Madison, are uncommon but have occurred before. These attacks are not predatory but territorially driven as coyotes defend their den/home territories against other coyotes, foxes, and, unfortunately, domestic dogs," Vann said. "An older dog that is unable to defend itself may be more susceptible to attack."
Mating and breeding season could result in territorial disputes
Vann said attacks on dogs may increase during the late winter and spring because it is mating and breeding season.
"Coyotes establish and defend their territories aggressively at this time of year, however, attacks on dogs may occur year round," Vann said.
Most attacks happen at night but pet owners should not put their pets out in the middle of the day, either, Vann said. "Some [attacks] may occur in the middle of the day."
Coyote attacks on dogs becoming a common occurrance
This past February, the Wildlife Division's Hartford Office documented six coyote attacks on dogs, of which five dogs were killed, and one severely injured and put down, Vann said.
"These are likely only a percentage of the total number of attacks occurring around the state. This number is of concern but not necessarily that unusual as coyote attacks on dogs have become a common occurrence in Connecticut over the past 10 plus years," Vann said.
Attacks on dogs appear to be on the rise, Vann said, adding that dog owners should take appropriate precautions.
A six-foot fence is high enough to keep_most_coyotes out
"Dog owners living in areas with coyotes, or in areas where coyotes may travel, should supervise and/or leash their dogs whenever outside, and keep cats indoors. A six-foot fence or kennel is recommended and is considered high enough to prevent most coyotes from jumping or climbing over," Vann said.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Fact Sheet on coyotes gives the following advice:
"As coyotes have become more common, public concerns about coyotes attacking pets and people, especially children, have increased. Although some coyotes may exhibit bold behavior near people, the risk of a coyote attacking a person is extremely low. This risk can increase if coyotes are intentionally fed and then learn to associate people with food.
Coyotes will attack and kill pets, especially cats and small dogs (less than 25 pounds). The best way to protect pets is to not allow them to run free. Cats should be kept indoors, particularly at night, and small dogs should be on a leash and under close supervision at all times. The installation of a kennel or coyote-proof fencing is a long-term solution for protecting pets. In addition, homeowners should eliminate other sources of attraction to coyotes including pet food left outdoors, table scraps on compost piles, and decaying fruit below fruit trees."
But, as Traugh says, even larger dogs, particularly if they are older, can be susceptible to attacks as well.
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 7:14 p.m. on Thursday, March 15, 2012 to add information from Chris Vann.