WESTERLY — A small dog was attacked and taken by a coyote from a backyard along Kimball Avenue in Misquamicut on Tuesday night, prompting a renewed safety warning from officials.
Westerly Police Capt. Shawn Lacey, who supervises the town’s animal control division, confirmed that the attack occurred during twilight. According to Lacey and a post from the family on Facebook, a 5-year-old terrier-type dog named Razz was in the backyard when a coyote snatched it and headed into a wooded area.
“There was nothing unusual about the attack, but it was an unfortunate incident,” Lacey said. “We sent three officers, who assisted in attempting to search for the dog in the woods, along with multiple firefighters, but those efforts were unsuccessful.”
The owners are continuing their search, a post on the Westerly RI Lost & Found Pets Facebook page indicated, but officials said that expectations of finding the dog were “unrealistic.”
Animal Control Officer Arthur Smith said there have been more coyote sightings over the past decade, particularly in Watch Hill, Avondale and Misquamicut. The state Department of Environmental Protection said coyotes are also common in Hopkinton, Richmond and Charlestown.
Despite these sightings, the police said only a half dozen or so incidents have been reported this year, down slightly from previous years.
Smith said the coyotes have not been any more aggressive than anticipated, and about three weeks ago, a dog was injured when it attacked a coyote. Lacey added that in another incident, a woman rescued her dog by simply shouting at the coyote.
Smith said that in August and September, young coyotes often have a “teenage appetite” and constantly look for food. Woodchucks, smaller rodents, and unguarded pets can become their prey.
The police said the town can’t afford any sort of “extermination” campaign, and local and state officials said that doing so could create environmental imbalances. Smith noted, though, that the hunting season for coyotes is year-round in Rhode Island.
“We feel bad anytime something like this happens, but there’s only so much we can do,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, there is no easy fix here.”
Residents and visitors are urged to take precautions. Those include not allowing a dog to remain unleashed, keeping expandable leashes at a reasonable distance, not letting pets out at night, and keeping properties clear of garbage and other food sources.
For more information on coyotes and pet safety, visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/coyote.pdf.