JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – People in the heart of Johnson City say coyotes are taking over their yards and attacking their dogs and cats, but much to their disappointment, wildlife officers say the coyotes are here to stay.
“We’ve lost our yard and I know other people have lost their pets,” Ann Wood said.
Wood knows the dangers of coyotes firsthand. A coyote seriously injured her dog one night in her backyard last November. Wood’s dog narrowly escaped another coyote attack in the morning last month, she said.
“I’m standing there screaming and trying to make him stop and he stops and looks at me, not concerned about me whatsoever and that really scared me,” she said. “He’s just getting too comfortable with our turf here.”
Wood does not live on the outskirts of town. Instead, she lives on North Roan Street in one of the busiest parts of Johnson City.
Just up the road, closer to downtown, multiple people on multiple streets have reported seeing coyotes, according to Rhonda Lacey.
“Interstate 26 is right there,” Lacey said. “We have a school that’s one block from where I’m standing. Just kind of worried that (the coyotes are) going to attack pets, children.”
Wildlife officers say attacks against people are incredibly rare, but they acknowledge, while coyotes prefer rodents, there is a risk to other animals.
“I don’t think there’s a good, clear answer on how we completely protect our pets,” Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Public Information Officer Matthew Cameron said. “I think we just have to realize it’s our responsibility. If we’re going to turn them loose, we need to supervise them.”
Cameron said coyotes can dig under and jump over fences. He said coyotes thrive in cities as a byproduct of urban sprawl.
“They’re not going to go anywhere and we have to learn to co-exist with them,” Cameron said. “Now I’m not saying if you’re having a coyote problem that you should ignore it, you can deal with that coyote, but by-and-large they’re always going to be here and I think we just need to learn how to live responsibly around them.”
That is not the message people like Lacey want to hear
“They’re going to populate and I think saying to co-exist with them is not just acceptable,” Lacey said.
After Wood’s close calls, she changed her ways.
“Now we don’t let (our dog) off the leash unless we’re right there with her,” she said of her dog. “It’s a shame, because she loves to get out here.”
While her dog has lost some of her freedom and her owner feel she’s lost her three-acre yard, Wood says it’s a trade-off she’s willing to make if it means her dog stays safe.
“We just feel lucky to have her,” Wood said.
Cameron said there are some specific things people can to do to keep coyotes out of their yard.
“Don’t encourage their presence. Don’t provide any food source (food scraps, dog/cat food) for them intentionally or unintentionally,” Cameron said. “If you do see them, haze them. Make loud noises, bang pots and pans together. Just don’t make coyotes feel welcome and they’re probably going to leave you alone.”
Cameron said people are allowed to trap and kill the animals as long as they follow local and state laws. TWRA says you can also hire someone to do it for you.
Although some people in Johnson City say they’re seeing coyotes for the first time, Cameron said the animals thrive in major cities like New York and Chicago.
“If they’re not causing you problems, research shows that you’re just better off leaving them alone,” he said.
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