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Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe: Coyote likely killing pet cats

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By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

Several people on Denton’s northeast side have lost pet cats in recent weeks.

After one cat owner made an animal cruelty complaint, Denton police enlisted the help of wildlife experts to investigate the deaths. They determined another animal was responsible for the cat deaths, most likely a coyote.

Several years ago, researchers in Tucson, Arizona, studied the coyotes living in the city. They documented many confrontations between coyotes and cats. More than half the time, the cats were killed by the coyotes. They found that cats were the most common meal, up to 42 percent of the diet, for those coyotes. The study was published in the Journal of Wildlife Management in 2009.

In the wild, coyotes eat small mammals, snakes and seeds. But they are opportunistic, too, wildlife experts say. As developers clear land, coyotes will move into town and adapt. They can climb trees and jump fences. And they will eat your pets.

My family lost animals to coyotes when we lived on our small farm near Argyle. The first day after we finished the chicken coop, I watched a coyote walk up in the middle of the afternoon and circle the pen, looking for a way in.

A few years later, one coyote did find its way into the enclosure. We lost three chickens over the course of a week before we finally figured out how the animal was getting in — a hole under some brush that had grown between the chicken house and the run.

We lost a barn cat to a coyote, too.

When Bj Lewis reported the animal cruelty complaint on our website on June 30, I wondered whether a coyote killed the cat, even though others quoted in the story suspected one or more people could be responsible.

That same day, I saw a coyote on my way home from work, near Panhandle and Hillcrest streets in west Denton. It was standing in the middle of someone’s backyard. I pulled over and managed to take a photo before it disappeared into the brush. I posted the photo on Twitter.

A few neighbors and Twitter followers said they, too, had seen a coyote in the area (the city’s west side) and had lost pet cats.

As more cats turned up dead or missing on the northeast side, people expressed their suspicions on social media. It was hard not to share their worries for a neighbor disturbed over a hungry coyote.

Laura Register, who lives on Chisholm Trail in northeastern Denton, was still upset Monday when I talked with her about her 15-year-old cat, Tigger. Only half his body was found, about a half-mile away from where she lives.

“He was so sweet,” Register said.

Denton police investigated the cat deaths and shared their findings with City Council member Keely Briggs, whose district covers the northeast side. Both a veterinarian and a Texas Parks and Wildlife Service biologist said the carcasses pointed to animal predators, most likely coyotes.

One resident in the district also had surveillance video of a neighbor’s cat being killed by a coyote.

Briggs returned to social media to announce the findings, writing that she appreciated how serious the police department took the investigation.

Experts say to best protect your pets, don’t feed them outside, keep cats indoors and take small dogs out only with close supervision.

To learn more about urban coyotes, visit the wildlife page at http://bit.ly/29zVmn5.

 

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.