Coyote attacks, kills pet Labradoodle near Aspen | AspenTimes.com

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Coyote attacks, kills pet Labradoodle near Aspen

ASPEN – A coyote reportedly attacked a woman’s Labradoodle on the Smuggler Mountain Trail near Aspen sometime Friday morning, then dragged it to an area where other coyotes ate the pet in front of its owner.

The woman, whose name was not released, was not physically harmed in the incident, which was confirmed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The unleashed dog was walking ahead of her when the attack occurred, said DOW Area Wildlife Manager Perry Will.

“It’s just a real unfortunate situation,” Will said. “You have to feel for the pet owner. Wild critters are unpredictable and despite any precautions someone might take, these types of incidents can still occur.”

He said calls to his Glenwood Springs office involving nuisance coyotes in the Roaring Fork Valley have increased in recent years, but are still relatively few. In fact, his office is fielding many more calls this spring involving problems with bears, including an incident earlier this week in a west Aspen home near Red Butte Drive, in which a bear broke down a door in its quest for food.

The bear was captured and put down because it was a repeat offender, Will said. It was the first time this year a local bear has had to be euthanized, he said.

As for the Smuggler Mountain coyote issue, Will said his staff and field officers will evaluate the incident before deciding whether any action should be taken. “It was probably an isolated incident,” he said.

Trouble between coyotes and domestic pets in the Aspen area is nothing new. Over the years, many residents of the Centennial employee-housing development, which lies close to the Smuggler trail, have spoken of losing their beloved cats to coyotes, which are wild and predatory canines. Coyotes usually travel in packs, but don’t necessarily hunt as a group like wolves do.

Will said he couldn’t recall any local incidents involving attacks on humans or dogs, however. Coyote attacks on people are rare, but do occur – as was the case in October 2009 when an up-and-coming teenage folk singer, Taylor Mitchell, died from injuries she sustained from an incident involving two coyotes while hiking in Nova Scotia.

David “Mac” McDaniel, who runs a nuisance-animal removal business in Eagle, said he got a call from the Labradoodle’s owner, who was in tears, shortly after noon on Friday.

“She called me for help in finding the remains of her pet so that she could give it a proper burial,” he said. “She said she was hiking up Smuggler and the dog wasn’t far out of her sight. The first coyote came and hauled the dog off and then the other ones joined in on the feast. That had to be a horrible experience for her.”

McDaniel said he is getting more and more calls regarding “urban coyote problems” in the Aspen area. Such incidents are not unusual given the encroachment of development on wildlife areas, he said.

He said Aspen residents need to exercise extreme caution when hiking in areas on the outskirts of town, such as Smuggler Mountain.

“Not to alarm people, but once a coyote has gotten brave enough to attack pets with people present … it could be a small child next time,” he said.

That’s because the attack on the pet was “a step in a coyote’s behavior toward habituation, or loss of fear to humans,” McDaniel said.

He said state laws limit his ability to remove dangerous animals on public lands, such as Smuggler Mountain. Laws allow “hazing” of wild animals to ward them away, but such methods don’t work as well with coyotes as they do with bears, McDaniel said.

“The solution is to remove the animals and target the exact animal that’s causing the problem,” he said. “But I would have to have a special permit from the Division of Wildlife to use that land to do that.

“We don’t have a good system for controlling urban coyotes in this state.”

Will said anyone experiencing problems with coyotes or other nuisance animals should call the DOW at (970) 947-2920.

asalvail@aspentimes.com