A man let his Bichon-mix out the back door of his home in Shelton at 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 19 and soon heard a yelp. His dog was severely injured and he took her to the vet, who said the bites were comparable to a coyote's. The small dog had to be put down.
It can be dangerous to let small pets outside in areas with high coyote populations. Monroe has had two recent sightings. One in a backyard on Camelot Drive on Feb. 17 and another on Fernwood Road, when a resident reported seeing two animals with one possibly injured.
Coyotes migrated to Connecticut from the west in the 1950s and Animal Control Officer Ed Risko said the animals were first spotted in Monroe in the 1970s.
"Many people believe coyotes are in Monroe because we have 'taken over their home,'" Risko wrote in a paper on coyotes. "Actually, we have created habitat for coyotes by expanding urban areas. Large rodent populations, accessible garbage and plenty of green spaces are all reasons why coyotes call Monroe home."
Characteristics of a coyote are large erect ears, narrow nuzzles, golden brown eyes and bushy tails. The animals in our region weigh 35 to 50 pounds, but often appear heavier due to a thick, double coat of fur, according to Risko.
Risko said a coyote's diet is 70% small mammals and 30% fruits and vegetables, insects, fish, birds, eggs and other available items. In urban areas like Monroe, Risko said coyotes prey on rats, squirrels, geese, fawns, garbage, yard fruit and small domestic pets.
"Coyotes will prey on outdoor cats and small dogs," Risko said. "Pets have been reportedly taken from backyards, open spaces and even right off the leash. There are, however, some things you can do to reduce the risk to your pets."
The only way to guarantee your cat's safety is to keep it indoors, according to Risko. "Outdoor cats face potential death from cars, diseases, parasites, raccoons and dogs, in addition to coyotes," he said.
Owners of small dogs can "greatly reduce" risks of a coyote attack by keeping their dog on a short leash while outside and avoiding extension leashes; supervising it when off-leash in the yard; walking the dog at times and places with high pedestrian traffic; and walking their dog with other people, according to Risko.
He said coyotes pose less of a threat to medium and large size dogs, but recommends keeping them on a leash, except in designated areas, and preventing the dogs from "playing" or interacting with a coyote.
Risko also said there are things people can do to keep coyotes out of their yards, like not feeding them, securing trash containers, maintaining the property so it doesn't attract rodents and not leaving pet food and water outside.
"Hazing techniques", making noise and appearing to be big, loud and mean when a coyote is on your property, is effective.
Having a fence is another option. Risko said a minimum height of six feet is needed to keep coyotes out, adding a five-foot fence with a rolling top bar is considered adequate.