Aspen pet owners step forward, warn of coyote problem |

Aspen pet owners step forward, warn of coyote problem

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The woman whose dog was killed by coyotes Friday morning on Smuggler Mountain stepped forward Tuesday, telling The Aspen Times that she wanted to warn others that the horrific incident is extremely repeatable.

Debbie Jelinek described herself as a “private person,” but said she felt compelled to discuss aspects of the tragedy that claimed the life of her beloved 7-month-old miniature Labradoodle, Ginger. Initial reports of the incident – provided by two wildlife specialists – were mostly correct, except for the suggestion that the dog was not wearing a leash at the time of the attack.

She and her husband Richard Jelinek were on a hike with Ginger on Friday morning. She said Ginger was wearing a leash with a harness, but she did not have it in her grasp at the time of the coyote attack. Still, the dog was rarely out of her sight, circling around her feet as they made their way down. There is no leash rule on Smuggler, so she thought things were fine.

Everything happened very quickly, the Aspenites said. A coyote apparently darted out when Debbie was momentarily looking away. Within seconds, she heard a scream, turned and saw that her pet was within its grasp. The wild canine then dragged it away to provide food to other coyotes.

Richard wanted to go after their pet, but the hillside was steep and Debbie urged him to stay back, fearing he also would be attacked.

“My wife was warning me not to go down the hillside and go after Ginger,” he said. “The whole thing took no more than a minute. These coyotes were working together. They clearly had a plan.”

Debbie said though she is grieving and would prefer not to speak publicly about the incident, she wanted to turn something negative into a positive. She said since the incident she’s been flooded with calls of support and information about similar occurrences.

“One woman who lives on Matchless Drive called me, and told me she feels like a prisoner in her home,” Debbie said. “She sees a coyote in her yard three times a day, glaring. And she has a little dog. She says she has a deck but she stays inside her house with locked doors because of these coyotes.”

Debbie said her daughter lives on Silverlode Drive near Smuggler Mountain, and the coyotes keep her awake many nights with their howling. Also, one of the men who was helping the Jelineks after the attack mentioned that he lost two cats to coyotes.

Another woman, Debbie was told, was walking near the Aspen Club when a coyote came and took her dog as she was holding it with a leash. “Nobody holds a leash wrapped around their hand, with a tight grip like they are going to fight,” she said.

Debbie said she has heard other stories about similar losses, suffered by residents of Mountain Valley and Starwood, in which coyotes snatched pets as the owner opened the front door.

Perry Will, area manager with the state Division of Wildlife in Glenwood Springs, could not be reached Tuesday to discuss the possibility of a coyote problem in the area. Last week, he said coyote incidents have been on the rise in recent years, but remained low compared with problems involving bears.

“What coyotes do is not like what happens with bears, that get into the garbage, that get into people’s homes and cabinets because the doors aren’t locked,” Debbie said. “Tell me the story of a bear that grabbed a dog walking with its owner and ate it. I know there are people who have gotten hurt, but usually because they got right in the bear’s face in their house.

“But these coyotes are wild, they’re dangerous, and they hunt and kill so they can eat,” Debbie continued. “They’ve been known to kill elk and deer and big dogs. I would hope that with awareness I could prevent somebody else’s dog from being attacked.”

She said she’s not seeking vengeance against the coyotes, just a thorough investigation of the wild animals atop Smuggler and whether they are dangerous to hikers, pets and children.

Rodney Hill, a resident of Aspen’s Centennial housing complex for more than 11 years, also related his history of problems with coyotes. He said he has lost four cats in the last eight years to the predatory canines.

“Smuggler tends to be a training ground for the baby foxes and coyotes,” Hill said. “You can see them coming out of their dens on Smuggler Mountain and learning how to hunt.”

The Jelineks said they hope the state DOW and the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board look into the matter, perhaps conducting a study on the coyote population in the area and determining whether they are overpopulated and dangerous to the community at large. Richard mentioned that he has spoken with Dale Will, the county’s open space director, who has been cooperative and is looking into the issue.

“I understand the balance of nature; I understand coyotes have a function,” Richard said. “I don’t want to change the ecology, but I also am concerned about the community.”

Debbie added: “I don’t necessarily want to reduce the coyote population, but these incidents seem to be getting more frequent.”

Richard said he knows there has been controversy about how to deal with nuisance animals in the area, but he hopes that pet owners and animal-rights activists can work together with authorities to find a balanced solution.

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