It was 12 days ago when, not more than 20 feet from his Cedar Lake Road home, Jerry Stamm saw something that still has him losing sleep at night.
His 16-year-old Maltese, Cici, was going for a quick run outside the condominium. As Stamm watched from a living room window, two coyotes came flying out from a thicket of trees and viciously attacked the dog. Stamm bolted outside and chased away the coyotes, but Cici was already badly injured. The playful, friendly Maltese was put down two days later.
This attack highlights one of the risks of what the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources calls an “increasing” coyote population in the Twin Cities. While the state hasn't documented a human attack, a number of coyote attacks on pets—like that witnessed by Stamm—have been reported in the past few years.
“To see your dog get attacked within 20 feet of your dwelling is a horror story,” Stamm said.
That’s why the DNR, along with local entities such as the city of St. Louis Park, are trying to raise awareness about coyotes.
“We’re trying to educate people,” said Jim Vaughan, St. Louis Park’s environmental coordinator.
The city currently has a web page dedicated to dealing with coyotes, with information coming from the DNR. Recommendations include securing garbage containers, supervising pets when they’re outside and harassing coyotes when they're around.
Preventing coyotes from becoming comfortable in a residential setting is key, said Dan Stark, a wolf specialist with the DNR.
“They’re fairly adaptable,” he said. “They become more accustomed to humans over time.”
But even if people make an effort to scare coyotes off, there is no guarantee they’ll leave the Twin Cities. As development pushes outward, Stark said, more natural coyote habitat gets swallowed up. Also, an urban area has a number of readily available food sources for coyotes, ranging from small animals to garbage—a recipe for coyotes staying put.
There have been at least half a dozen coyote sightings this year across St. Louis Park, Vaughan said.
“They’re literally all over town,” he said.
The city is exploring the feasibility of coyote traps. However, setting them up “might be impossible,” Vaughan said, because it would be hard to find spots in St. Louis Park to bait traps that wouldn’t also attract pets and other small animals. There is also some risk in baiting coyotes closer to residential areas.
If traps were to be set, now would be the time, as the coyote gestation period will soon be underway. Without traps, look for an increased number of coyotes in St. Louis Park in coming months. That heightens the urgency behind the message from the city and DNR, as well as Stamm.
“I don’t want (other pet owners) to go through what I did,” he said. “It was just horrible.”