Are Coyotes Killing House Pets?
Residents say animals have no fear
House pets are disappearing in Bayside and a group of like-minded families believe they know why. Residents in one neighborhood are convinced coyotes are responsible for vanishing pet cats and other residents say a dog was attacked by a coyote, but survived.
Residents view what they percieve to be a dramatic rise in the coyote population as a threat to the way they live. Those who have lost pets don't think it's being taken too seriously by the village.
Leslie Rosmann lives in Bayside and lost two beloved cats. She is convinced coyotes killed her pets. Rosman lost a red tabby named Buddy and later, another tabby named George. "My son was heartbroken," she said. "I first called the police department and then the humane society three times in hopes of finding George."
Rosmann emailed a picture of Buddy to Fran Wallace, a neighbor, and together they began searching. "Cats are very smart," Rosmann said. "We'd never had a problem with him wandering off before."
Sightings near Schlitz Audubon
Most of the disappearances and sightings of coyote appear to be east of the railroad tracks and north of the Schlitz Audubon Center, but some residents say it could be more widespread.
Bayside police have responded to the concerns by patrolling the area at night but aren't seeing what the neighborhood residents are seeing.
Rosmann says Buddy had tags and she was hopeful he'd turn up. They gave up the search after three months. At that point Rosmann says it never entered her mind that coyotes had taken Buddy.
Then George disappeared.
"My husband and I were sitting on our screened porch one night and heard this god-awful screeching," Rosmann said. "It sounded like a bark combined with nails on a chalkboard. A horrible sound." Rosmann believes the sound they heard was a coyote.
"I saw one running across the street recently," Rosmann said. "It was huge. I thought it was a small deer. I'd always thought they were smaller."
Rosmann thinks the coyotes are finding refuge at Ellsworth Park.
Donna Olsen also lives in Bayside. She said that her children are older and out of the house, but if they were still small, there is no way she'd let them out at night.
"I won't let my dogs out after dark anymore," Olsen said. "A friend of mine said one coyote just walked up and joined their barbecue."
Rosmann has another friend who works for the Village of Bayside and he said he was leaving work one night and saw a huge number of coyotes. "He said they looked like a cross between a dog and a fox. They cull the deer, why can't they do something about this?" Rosmann said.
A neighbor of Rosmann's frequently works in the yard and said coyotes come right up to him, seeming to have lost all fear of humans. "Kids in the park take hockey sticks with them to fend them off. I think it's going to take the loss of a child to wake people up."
DNR avoids coyote remediation
Marcus Smith is the public affairs manager for the Southeast Region Department of Natural Resources. He says it's not uncommon to see coyotes in urban areas. "Unfortunately we don't get involved to remediate problems with coyotes," Smith said. "People in Bayside could try to yell at the coyotes, bang pots and pans when they see them. This tends to frighten them off." Smith says the DNR will take a more aggressive posture against a stray bear, but coyotes are not seen as an imminent threat.
The police department in the Village of Bayside is aware of the community's concern about coyotes, and is empathetic. At the same time, says Captain Scott McConnell, there's not much the force can do beyond what it has done so far.
"I've asked my officers over and over what they've seen," McConnell said. "They're out there 24-7 and they tell me they've seen one or two trotting across the boulevard."
Fran Wallace has lived in the same house for 13 years in Bayside and grew up only a short distance away. "I always used to let my cats out," Wallace said. "They are very well trained and I didn't have to worry. They'd come as soon as I called them."
On Sept. 8, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., her beloved cat Charlie was nowhere to be found.
"Charlie always came as soon as I called him," Wallace said. "On the night he disappeared I whistled and he didn't come. Right away I knew something was wrong."
She stayed up all night on the porch with a flashlight looking for Charlie. She says it was so uncharacteristic of him to ignore her calls. After Charlie disappeared Wallace printed out flyers and delivered them to houses and posted them on telephone poles. "I didn't care how many hours it took me," Wallace said. "I was always on the lookout for the remains of our cat."
Wallace says the Village was initially very sympathetic and put a camera in the woods to see if they could spot large packs of coyote. "They only saw one deer," Wallace said. "Then the camera was gone."
The Wallace family has another cat, Kiki, who was found in Mequon, half starved. "She's very street smart," Wallace said. "Ever since Charlie disappeared she's been different. She stays close to the house and near the garage in case she needs to make a getaway. She saw something or sensed something. People say coyotes are nocturnal, but they're not," Wallace said. "They may move around more at night because there's less people, but they are out all the time."
Up to 30 in a pack?
Wallace says at a village meeting the subject of coyotes came up. "They think we have about five or six, which they say is a normal number. A neighbor counted as many as 30 in one pack," Wallace said. "At least that number. He lost count at 30."
Wallace says some people may view cats as expendable pets. "If it were dogs being taken I think it would be a different situation, more would be done. My cat was not expendable. I am upset, I'm crushed," Wallace said. "How do you explain this to your child? I'm always aware of Kiki's whereabouts. She stays in the house now. I cannot lose a second animal. It will never be the same."
"If there are 30 coyotes in the area, that would explain the loss of the animals," said Olsen. "A friend of mine was walking down the block and found what she thought was a dead bird. It turned out to be the rear leg of a cat. That just doesn't happen."
The man who saw the coyotes is not prone to exaggeration, according to Olsen.
"I think 30 coyotes in our area is a very conceivable number," Olsen said. "My husband was walking our dogs and was followed by a coyote, step-by-step. He's an outdoors man and a hunter and he was taken aback by how fearless the coyote seemed to be."
Olsen says the coyote followed her husband right into their yard, walking parallel to him. "At that time he was beginning to wonder if the coyote was readying to attack." She says another resident's dog was attacked by a coyote and came away with a severe head wound. "Neighborhood boys saw the coyote run off," Olsen said. "I'm afraid authorities think we're crazy and they're sweeping this under the rug.
I'm hopeful this will become an issue that they can no longer avoid and will be forced to take action."
McConnell has been with the Bayside police department for 20 years and says he's heard more about the coyotes over the past two than in the previous years.
"I've asked every person I've talked with to keep me apprised," he says. "At the same time, I don't want anyone taking matters into their own hands with firearms. The dangers involved with something like that far outweigh any damage a coyote could do."
Olsen has a small Dachshund and is convinced he would be gone if she let him outside without attending to him. "It's 10 degrees outside and I keep the door open when I let him out so I can see him. We're all feeling the crunch, living in a degree of fear."