Snowmass officials urge coyote caution for pet owners |

Snowmass officials urge coyote caution for pet owners

Several small pets already lost to wildlife encounters this season

A coyote trots beside Owl Creek Road in Snowmass on Monday, April 12, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Snowmass Village officials are urging pet owners to practice extra caution with their pets this season after a series of recent wildlife conflicts, according to Animal Services Officer Lauren Martenson.

The town has received reports of at least four dogs and one cat lost in wildlife encounters, with coyotes confirmed as culprits in a couple of those incidents, Martenson said.

And it’s not just out in the wilderness and on the trails where owners need to exercise caution. Martenson noted “increased reports of coyotes acting a little bit more brazen” and exhibiting “more of a kind of stalking behavior,” she said. One owner reported that their pet was taken almost immediately after being let outside, almost as if the coyote was watching and waiting.

“Be extra cautious between (dusk and dawn),” Martenson advised, as that’s when coyotes tend to be most active.

Owners should keep pets on a leash, keep a close eye on those pets at all times outdoors and be prepared to pick up their pets in the event of a close encounter; Martenson recommends that people actively discourage a coyote from coming closer, even if that means throwing sticks or small rocks.

A Colorado Parks and Wildlife coyote tipsheet shared by the town recommends that those with coyote concerns should recreate during daylight hours, carry a walking stick and deterrent spray and have noise makers or rocks on hand to throw. Pet owners should keep animals on a short leash, use extra caution between dusk and dawn, avoid den sites and should not allow pets to interact with coyotes.

In the event of a close encounter, people should not run or turn their backs and instead face the coyote and back away slowly; the department also recommends that people “be as big and loud as possible” and “wave your arms and throw objects.”

So far, there have not been any known conflicts between coyotes and humans traveling alone.

As for why Snowmass Village has been subject to the increase in coyote attacks on pets, “it’s all reflective of their food source,” she said. There is currently a “robust” population of coyotes fueled by plentiful food in previous seasons, and Martenson said there might also be a decline in the population of other small mammals in the wild that would normally feed that population.

Coyotes are “super adaptive and brazen and opportunistic predators,” Martenson said. As animals and humans continue to exist in close proximity in the town, the predators are growing less fearful in populated areas and are even less likely to be deterred by humans nearby.

This story has been updated to correct information about when coyotes are most active; people should be extra cautious between dusk and dawn.

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