What's the best way to protect your pet from urban coyotes?

SHAKER HEIGHTS, OH (WOIO) - Running around their Shaker Heights backyard, Robyn Stewart's three little poodles play carefree. However, just feet away, Stewart pays close attention, because her dogs are playing in the same spot her puppy Rosie was snatched by a coyote.

"It's bad enough that a dog goes missing, but, if you think it's been eaten, it's kind of shocking," Stewart said.

Stewart said she had no idea coyotes were so close to her home. Not only was the family heartbroken, their other dog was scared to go back outside.

"After it happened, (my other dog) was very much more cautious. He didn't want to come out and now, even before he comes out, he'll look around before he'll go down into the yard," she said.

The Stewart family isn't the first to have an animal attacked. More and more coyotes are showing up in Northeast Ohio.

"They're opportunists. They're smart. If they can catch a cat, and cats are very fast, they will," said Katrina Heinzen, Nature Center at Shaker Lakes environmental educator.

Heinzen said coyotes usually stay away from people. She's spotted them out before.

"They're always running away from me. They're very wary and very smart," Heinzen said.

This time of year, coyotes are denning and protecting their pups, so they may be more defensive. If you see a coyote, stay calm.

"Back away slowly. Don't run. They have been known to chase humans and dogs that have been running away from them," Heinzen said.

She also recommends:

  • Keeping pets on a leash when walking, especially in April and May when coyotes den.
  • Bringing pets inside when it gets dark outside because coyotes are nocturnal.
  • Cleaning up outdoor food, including pet food, because it could draw coyotes to your home.

"(My dogs are) never out here unattended and, at night, everyone's on a leash," Stewart said.

Right now, Heinzen said, no one keeps track of the number of coyotes in Northeast Ohio, but experts believe the increase has come over the last decade or so.

Heinzen said there are likely more coyotes because there's good food in the area, like rats and geese, and there is also quite a bit of green space for them to den.

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