BOISE, Idaho (KIFI) - Amid increasing reports of coyote activity in the Boise foothills, including the Hulls Gulch and Military Reserve areas, Fish and Game is asking recreationists and homeowners to take additional precautions with their pets as coyotes enter their breeding season and become more territorial.
Recently, Fish and Game officials in the Southwest Region were made aware of a possible fatal coyote attack on a dog in a neighborhood northwest of Hulls Gulch. On the night of Saturday, Jan. 29, an area resident let their two dogs out into their partially fenced yard. The dogs ran out to the back corner of the yard, beyond a shrubbed property edge. Shortly thereafter, the resident heard a yelp and attempted to recall their dogs, but only one returned. The resident grabbed a flashlight to attempt to find the small, five-pound dog. They discovered fur and blood where an apparent attack had occurred, and saw eyes reflecting light in the distance. More blood and fur were found in the surrounding area the following morning.
“It is a tragic situation for that resident to lose their pet, and – as many of us are dog owners ourselves – we understand and feel for the loss that this individual experienced,” Southwest Region Wildlife Manager Ryan Walrath said.
Walrath said it is impossible to confirm the dog was killed by a coyote in this incident since the dog was not recovered. Walrath noted the neighborhood’s proximity to Hulls Gulch – home to a popular foothill trail system and an area that had multiple incidents involving dog-aggressive coyotes in the past seven months – and the fact that coyotes are going into their breeding season as reasons for dog owners to exercise caution.
“There is a biological reason behind coyotes behaving more aggressively during this time of year, and that applies not just to this neighborhood but to any areas on the urban-foothill interface where coyotes might be present,” Walrath said.
Encounters between coyotes and domestic dogs can happen at any time of year, and coyotes can always pose a risk to dogs in situations where they view them as either a prey source or as competition. The risk increases during the mating season when coyotes – particularly males – become more aggressive. That’s also the case during denning season in spring and early summer, when coyotes are inclined to protect their young around their den sites.
Fish and Game is currently working with the City of Boise’s Parks and Recreation Department and Ridge to Rivers to evaluate options for reducing unsafe encounters with coyotes in the Boise foothills and surrounding communities.
Here are some steps homeowners and recreationists can take to keep their pets safe:
- Remove or secure attractants, such as pet food, trash or dog feces.
- If you have a potential living food source for coyotes, such as chickens, secure their coops with wire mesh fences at least five feet high.
- Don’t leave your dog outside unsupervised.
- If possible, ensure your property boundaries are secure by keeping fences in good repair and letting your dogs out for bathroom breaks only in fenced areas, particularly at night. The American Kennel Club recommends solid fences of at least 6-feet tall, and buried in the ground at least 18 inches, and says that “coyote rollers” can provide additional deterrence.
- If your property is not fenced, turn on outside lights and make noise before letting your dog outside, and consider taking your dog out on a lead for nighttime bathroom breaks.
- Clear away brushy areas around your property that coyotes may see as safe denning or hiding spots.
- Keep dogs on lead when using foothill trail systems.
- Consider bringing a loud noisemaker with you – a whistle, bell or horn – which can be helpful in scaring off a coyote.
- Another option is carrying bear spray, and knowing how to use it. It’s not just for bears and can also be used as a highly effective tool against other mammals if an unsafe wildlife encounter occurs.
- When hiking, make noise to announce your presence. Coyotes are more leery around humans.
- Be present, and aware of your surroundings and your dog.
- If you know that an area has recently experienced dog-coyote encounters, consider using a different section of the Boise foothills that is open to recreation.