Health Department: Coyote attacks do not warrant official action

Why the coyotes are here in Madison–and in every city

Nearly 200 eastside residents learned during a Wednesday night standing room only meeting their concerns over a string of recent coyote attacks did not meet standards for the city and county to take action.  

While DNR officials say there have been at least five deadly attacks on small dogs, Public Health Madison and Dane County Environmental Health Services Supervisor John Hausbeck says a person’s health and safety must first be threatened before official action would be taken.

“We don’t know why it’s happening,” Hausbeck said.  “This is coyotes exploring a new food source.  It’s available.  A small domestic dog is a whole lot easier to snag than a rabbit is.”

Hausbeck said currently coyotes are storing fat for the winter, and small dog attacks happen every year.

Hearing Hausbeck’s position was a disappointment to dog owners like Cathy Wehrli, who has spotted a coyote near her home.  She says she was hoping to see either the health department or DNR experts speaking at the meeting say they would trap and relocated concerning coyotes.

“Not necessarily destroyed,” Wehrli said. “But we don’t need to be fearful for our pets.”

However, dog owner Patricia Randolph represented a small but vocal portion of attendees, who reiterated owner responsibility of keeping watch, since she strongly feels coyotes are necessary for nature.

“Because coyotes keep down mice,” Randolph said.  “Without them that leads to more Lyme disease.”

A wildlife biologist joined DNR and health experts in emphasizing to audience members they needed to put the ‘fear of humans’ back into coyotes in order to change behavior through actions like shaking pennies in a sock, or using an air horn or stick, if they came into contact with a violent animal.

The advice sounds similar to what Elizabeth Statton is also urging.  A coyote killed her parents four-year-old, 10 pound Yorkie Poo Scamp as he went for his early Wednesday morning walk in their Stoughton back yard.

“Very, very tragic,” Statton said.   “Don’t be too certain it can’t happen to you. Because something’s going on. Something’s changed. The coyotes are really aggressive for some reason.” 

Hausbeck said there is no evidence that coyotes will move from dogs to small children.  DNR says if aggressive coyotes do not respond to aggressive actions, call 911.  However, officials also say state law allows property owners to trap and remove coyotes without a permit.