Coyote attacks dog on Smuggler near Aspen |

Coyote attacks dog on Smuggler near Aspen

ASPEN – Pet owners who use Smuggler Mountain near Aspen are being more cautious these days after a recent coyote attack on a golden retriever.

The incident happened last weekend, and officials have received reports that the coyote has followed other pets along the road.

Tamar Johnson said she and two friends on Sunday morning were hiking with her dog, Archie, along the road in the section above the observation deck when the coyote lunged at the canine. Archie sustained a 1-centimeter puncture wound on the inside of his mouth. He was taken to the emergency vet clinic in Basalt for treatment.

Johnson said the coyote suddenly appeared on the road and immediately went after her dog, who was walking within a few feet of her. He was on voice command and off leash, which is allowed on Smuggler Mountain Road.

“It happened so fast,” she said, adding the coyote appeared larger than Archie, a 90-pound retriever. Johnson said she screamed during the attack, which forced the coyote to retreat. She put the dog on a leash and picked up a rock for further protection. They continued up the road after the attack in an effort to not spook the dog anymore than he already was.

After the group turned around and was walking down, Johnson said she saw the coyote sitting on a boulder watching them.

“That coyote was stalking us,” Johnson said, adding she threw the rock at it, and it ran away.

ReRe Baker, animal control officer for Pitkin County, said she received a few reports last week of a coyote following hikers with small dogs on the Smuggler road.

Johnson said she reported the attack to the Colorado Division of Wildlife. She said officials from the agency asked her to keep the incident under wraps in an effort to prevent a panic.

“I would want to know if there is a coyote up there attacking dogs,” she said, adding she thinks a smaller canine would have sustained far worse injuries than Archie did.

John Armstrong, a ranger for Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, said he was not aware of the incident.

“It’s so rare,” he said. “We do like to know about these things.”

Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the DOW, said as more people enter the backcountry and wild animals get accustomed to human activity and easy food sources, incidents like Johnson’s are more likely.

With birthing and den season in full swing, coyotes are protective of their pups and highly territorial, Hampton said.

“It sounds very typical for an animal who has gotten too comfortable around people,” he said, adding that humans should leave wild animals alone and if they are encountered, they should be chased away with rocks and shouting.

He said the DOW typically won’t relocate or euthanize a coyote unless it attacks a human being.

“If it attacks a person, we will find it and put it down,” Hampton said.

He added that coyotes in Colorado don’t get much larger than 50 pounds.

“Anything aggressive looks larger than it is,” Hampton said.

Johnson said she got a long enough look at the coyote to admire it.

“It was silver, and I thought it was beautiful,” she said.

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