SPANISH SPRINGS — Spanish Springs resident Steven Crook was horrified last week when he found what looked like a full attack on his three small dogs — apparently attacked by desperate coyotes.
“One was almost completely eaten … almost eaten in two,” Crook told a Reno-area television news station. “I thought someone opened the gate or something. I couldn’t think that something could have jumped the 6-foot fence like that.”
But, according to Washoe County Animal Services, Crook’s lost animals were only three of 13 lost to the hungry coyotes this year. Desperate for water and food, the coyotes are attacking small pets, jumping the tall fences as they look for their needed calories after a long and dry winter.
“Their calorie intake is very high,” said Washoe County Animal Services Director Barry Brode. “I think it’s based on the lack of water in the higher hills and coming down here for water and food.”
One recent shop owner in Sparks reported a coyote walked into a water store, Brode said.
“Coyotes are very intelligent,” he said.
If a homeowner has a pond or running hose in the garden, that house is more likely going to be visited by a coyote, he said.
Coyotes in Nevada breed mainly during January, February and March. The gestation is about two months. The young are born in March through May, with litter sizes averaging five to six pups.
This is the time of year is when the juveniles are in desperate need of water and food. And with the intensely dry winter, finding water and food in the higher elevations has forced many younger coyotes to venture into neighborhoods.
Instead of stopping for quail or smaller animals, coyotes are taking on pets, Brode said.
“As for larger dogs, if a coyote gets hungry enough … ,” Brode started his thoughts. “They are opportunists. They think ‘Can I get that big dog.’”
Washoe County Animal Services is urging people to keep a close eye on their pets, small children and larger dogs, as coyote attacks have continued to increase, Brode said.
“If you are out with your small children, monitor your small children and small pets,” Brode said. “Just be aware of your surroundings.”
The coyote population in Nevada can range from 250,000 to 750,000 and are very adaptable and inhabit most areas of the state. They are medium-sized animals that are members of the dog family, which is why they can be mistaken for a family dog.
With large erect ears, slender muzzles and a bushy tail. They resemble small collie dogs.
Coyotes are proficient predators, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They can possess the speed, strength and endurance necessary to tackle prey as large as an adult deer.
Prime feeding time for coyotes is at night, which is why Brode suggests keeping pets indoors in the rural areas, like Spanish Springs.
“Make sure fences are properly repaired,” he said.
He also suggested to homeowners to walk around the backyard and do a perimeter check for safety, identifying any possible way a coyote could enter.
Even though coyotes can jump 6-foot fences, make sure they are properly repaired. Keep your dogs inside for the night. When they have to do their nightly business, go out there with them, it may save their lives.
Brode said not to approach them. He did say calls were on the rise in the Spanish Springs area of Sparks.
Residents are encouraged to call Animal Services dispatch at 775-322-3647 to report coyote sightings or incidents during the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. After hours, homeowners can call 9-1-1 to report an attack.