An unusual coyote attack at Carola’s Quilt Shop in Gibsons has conservation officers concerned.
On Aug. 10 Alaina Russell left her family’s quilt shop to scare off a coyote in the parking lot, only to turn around and see a second coyote running from the back door of the store with her pet poodle Nicky in its mouth.
Her father Greg ran after the animal that dashed across Highway 101 and disappeared into the woods.
“I swear the first one just came to lure me out,” Alaina said, adding the animals looked scrawny and had patchy fur.
The attack was very upsetting for the Russells, who never thought leaving a back door open for air circulation would result in the loss of their pet of nine years.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this happening. It’s not typical behaviour,” said conservation officer Dean Miller, confirming his office is taking the attack seriously.
He plans to monitor the nearby trails and check the wooded areas, but he doubts he will be able to identify or catch the coyote culprit.
Instead he hopes to gain some insight on what might have driven the coyotes to such a bold attack.
“It was a desperate move, especially when you talk about how much livestock is on the Coast with these small little hobby farms here and there, and of course we’re out of fawning season, but there are deer in Gibsons,” Miller said. “So I guess an animal that could be sick or starving and might not have those energy reserves to properly predate on another wild animal like they normally do might seek an easier option in domestic animals. But it’s not typical, it’s really quite unusual.”
The attack has some concerned their pets and even children could be a coyote’s next target, but Miller said there’s no need to worry that kids could be next.
“I don’t think people are in their prey picture,” Miller said, adding only a few coyote attacks on people have ever been reported. “I’ve never heard of a case going beyond a bite or a few bites to where the coyotes would surround someone and attack them.”
As for pets, he does encourage owners to take precautions.
He said to keep dogs on leashes so they are not lured into the bush where coyote packs await and to keep cats inside.
“Basically, you do not want to let your pets roam free,” he said.
Shortly after the loss of Nicky, Alaina adopted a rescue dog from the SPCA to help her heal. In order to ensure the new pooch is safe, the Russells have installed a lattice gate at the back door so they can keep the airflow, but deter any animals from entering the shop.
Lesley Fox, executive director with the Association for the Protection of Fur Bearing Animals, said she feels coyotes are getting a bad rap after the widely reported attack, but she agrees people should protect their pets.
“I can totally sympathize as a pet owner. I have a cat and I have coyotes in my back yard and I’m always aware of their presence. My cat does not go outside without me,” she said, noting dawn and dusk are particularly risky times for pets to be out on their own.
She said attractants like garbage, fruit trees and bird feeders can bring coyotes into residential neighbourhoods, similar to bears, and she urges the community to change their habits to deter coyote confrontations.
“Education, not killing, is key,” Fox said. “While killing coyotes may bring some temporary physiological relief to someone who lost their pet to a coyote, in the long-term, more coyotes will simply return to the area. As long as there is a food source like garbage, fallen fruit, outdoor pets and pet food, you will have coyotes in your area.”