Pip’s death is a reminder to beware of coyotes
By DAVID BORAKS
Coyotes are more prevalent than ever in Lake Norman, NC neighborhoods these days, and they’re presenting a new danger for our pets. Two coyotes fatally attacked a dog in his Davidson yard last week, and his owners say it’s a reminder that pet owners need to beware.
Bruce and Lynn Henderson of Lynbrook Drive, off Concord Road, lost their 10-year-old Sheltie named Pip last week after he was attacked for the second time in two weeks.
The dog’s injuries from the Jan. 7 and Jan. 16 attacks were so serious he had to be euthanized.
“I hope our neighbors learn from our painful lesson: Keep a close eye on small dogs and cats, which coyotes target as easy prey,” Bruce Henderson said Tuesday. “Make sure rabies vaccinations are up to date (coyotes are carriers). And don’t assume fences will keep them out — we think our coyotes wriggled under the wire, and they easily scaled its 4-foot height.”
Experts say humans are the coyote’s only real threat in North Carolina right now, leaving most other small animals and pets as prey for the 20- to 40-pound animals. They’ve been seen with increasing frequency on greenways and trails and in neighborhoods.
In 2011, Cornelius police issued a telephone alert after a woman walking her dog spotted a coyote on the McDowell Creek Greenway, off Westmoreland Road.
Residents in other neighborhoods in the Lake Norman area also have reported seeing or hearing coyotes in recent years. The problem of urban coyotes came up at the Mecklenburg County Commission in February 2012, after fatal attacks on dogs were reported in east Charlotte and other neighborhoods.
Mecklenburg County Parks & Recreation set up a coyote page on its website, offering information and asking residents to report sitings.
Bruce Henderson, the environmental reporter for The Charlotte Observer and a longtime member of the Davidson Lands Conservancy, said this month’s attacks were the first time he has seen coyotes so close to homes in Davidson.
“We see deer routinely in our yard, and we’ve seen foxes, groundhogs, skunks, raccoons, barred owls and other types of urban wildlife that in retrospect are probably coyote prey,” he said. “But we’d seen no suggestion that coyotes were in the area.”
Pip, a 25-pound Shetland sheepdog, was inside a 4-foot fence in the Hendersons’ back yard during the first attack on Jan. 7. A neighborhood boy saw the attack from the street around 5 or 5:30pm. One coyote attacked the dog in the backyard, while another coyote was outside the fence.
The Hendersons’ two, larger Australian shepherds ran out out of the house as Pip scooted inside through a dog door. The coyote jumped the fence and fled. (Experts say coyotes can leap a 6-foot fence.)
A passing Fed Ex delivery driver flashed his headlights and honked his horn to help scare off the coyotes, Bruce Henderson said.
After examining Pip’s injuries, veterinarians told them they believe both coyotes had attacked at once, biting him all over his body, including to all four legs.
Henderson said Pip seemed to be on the mend until Jan. 16, when he got out of the house and into the backyard again. Lynn Henderson came home to find him bloody again.
“The vet told us those bites were superficial. We think the Aussies chased off the attacker. But the vet found that Pip’s skin had been basically ripped off the muscle over most of his body during the initial attack — the coyotes apparently shook him like a rug, one on either end,” Bruce Henderson said.
That led to an infection, and the dog’s skin was dying. A long and uncertain recovery seemed likely. “We couldn’t let him suffer through that, so put him down,” Bruce said.