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Recent coyote attacks on large dogs in East County also reported; area residents suggest packs are becoming more aggressive


By Miriam Raftery


June 28, 2010 (Spring Valley) – A coyote attacked a 12-year-old girl shortly before 9:30 this evening at 9119 Jamacha Road in Spring Valley, just one block from the Spring Valley Library and La Presa Middle School, Heartland Dispatch and the San Diego Sheriff's office have confirmed.  


 “Our report indicates the coyote jumped on her and she fell back and injured her elbow, but was not bitten,” Lt. Washington at the San Diego Sheriff’s department informed East County Magazine.


In an interview  with Channel 10 News,  Alyssa Blackman said she was walking in the courtyard her her apartment complex when she heard something behind her. She turned around and the coyote jumped onto her, ripping the front of her shirt, which she showed on camera. "It looked like he was about to bite me so I kicked it in the stomach and it just left," she said. 


Her mother confirmed that she heard the girl "screaming, crying hysterically." The victim said she had seen a coyote in the apartment complex previously, just one day before, and that she was certain the animal that attacked her was a coyote, not a dog. 


Attacks by coyote on humans have most often involved small children, but some attacked have been made on teens or even adults. Fatalities are rare. In Nova Scotia, Canada, a 19-year-old singer was killed by coyotes that attacked her in Cape Breton Highlands Park in 2009. In Glendale, California, a toddler was killed by coyotes in 1981. Pet owners have been bitten on numerous occasions while trying to protect dogs that were attacked by coyotes.;


Locally, some homeowners have recently cited concerns over aggressive coyote behavior.


“My nine-year-old daughter was chased a few months ago while riding her horse on the trail,” Cate Sacks, who lives near Lake Jennings, told East County Magazine. “My son is a triathlon kid and so runs and bikes the hills…I worry every day that he might meet a hungry, confused coyote.” Sacks, who runs a dog shelter, said the coyotes in her area are “no longer small, scared animals…They are large, bold predators.”


Sacks blames the problem on an imbalance in nature, adding that she has not seen a mountain lion in her area. California began issuing hunting permits for mountain lions in 1990. Increasing residential development in backcountry areas has also increased contact between humans and coyotes in our region.


In nearby Jamul and Blossom Valley, there have been a string of particularly aggressive coyote attacks recently on large animals. “My dogs were attacked by coyotes,” which is pretty surprising considering they’re 80-90 pounds each,” Susan Wedge advised neighbors in the Blossom Valley Network, an online community forum on June 12th. While reports of coyotes jumping fences taller than five or six feet are rare, Wedge said the coyotes jumped a six-foot-fence at her home on Broad Oaks by El Capitan Real, and injured her dogs, biting their hind legs. “We’ve had large dogs in our yard for six years without incident,” she said.


Lori Signs, another Blossom Valley resident, said her Jack Russell terrier was attacked at 8:30 in the morning recently, also on Broad Oaks. “I threw my arms in the air, screamed at the top of my lungs and charged at the coyote, while my dog was viciously fighting the coyote back for his life,” she said. The coyote dropped her dog, which survived. A few weeks earlier, however, Signs said she witnessed a coyote walking down Quail Canyon carrying a small dog dead in its mouth. “Please keep an eye on your dogs,” she warned. “They need your protection. These coyotes have no fear.”


Parents in areas frequented by coyotes should also keep an eye on children and avoid allowing young children to play unsupervised, even in fenced yards. Adults who walk or jog alone should exercise caution and consider bringing a friend. If you are approached by coyotes, making loud noises and waving your arms may frighten them off, as can throwing objects such as rocks if you are threatened. Carrying a walking stick, cane, air horn or whistle can also serve as a deterrent.


To protect your pets, don't allow them to roam freely. Chaining a dog in a yard, however, increases the chances that it may become a victim of a coyote attack. Coyotes locally have been known to jump over fences as high as six feet or more.  You can install a "coyote roller" at the top of fencing to keep coyotes from jumping into your yard.  Coyotes may also dig under fencing, so consider installing wire mesh at the base.  Bring pets indoors at night and do not leave pet food outside that may attract coyotes. It's also wise to spay female dogs, since a dog in heat will attract male coyotes.


The best way to discourage coyotes in your area is through the above steps.


Hunting coyotes is illegal without a special permit.  Fish & Game officers will shoot and kill coyotes that are known to have attacked humans or that have killed livestock, if the property owner complains and provides evidence.  However authorities urge the public to take precautions to protect their animals in order to avoid having harm come to wildlife due to encroachment of humans into their territory.


Trapping and relocating coyotes is not a viable option, since studies have shown ithat separating families causes disruption and disorientation to the pack, and survival rates are low. Transplanted animals are unfamiliar with food sources in a new location and may be more apt to seek out easy prey, such as pets.  They may be killed by dominant animals in the territory. Transplanted coyotes may also introduce diseases such as mange into a healthy population.  Sometimes a transplanted predator will make its way back to the original location.


Coyotes in your neighborhood do provide some benefits--including controlling rodent populations such as rats, mice, and gophers.   Their melodic and distinctive cries, howls, and yelps can be heard at night in many backcountry communities and urban areas in San Diego County, making clear why the Native Americans called the coyote "song dog."

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