The canine that attacked Dusty the cat in the backyard of Burton’s home on Allen’s Road (incorrectly identified as Georgetown Road in Wednesday’s edition) in the Curling area of Corner Brook this past Sunday morning was not captured. Still, Burton believes it was a coyote that he saw in a stand-off with his injured feline.
Burton said Dusty had to be put down because of serious internal injuries — a broken spine and damaged vital organs, believed to have been caused by being shaken violently in the mouth of the aggressor.
“A dog or a coyote could do that,” said Mike McGrath, senior biologist with the wildlife division of the Department of Environment and Conservation.
“But it is typical of coyotes right across North America that they do prey on roaming cats. Free-roaming cats are a large part of their diet.”
With the animals becoming more prevalent on the island portion of the province, he said people have to expect to see them from time to time and to occasionally hear about small pets like cats being attacked by them.
Coyotes are roamers and rarely stick around the same area for long. Coyotes in populated areas are only a problem, said McGrath, when they do remain in the same area.
“If there are repeated sightings, then it is an issue conservation officers would have to deal with to have it removed,” said McGrath.
“The occasional sighting, and even the occasional cat being attacked, is something we’re going to have to live with.”
In most places, it is illegal to allow any pet to roam freely. McGrath said that law should be obeyed particularly by folks who live near wooded areas where coyotes may be lurking.
People should also not leave pet food, garbage or anything else that might attract coyotes outside on their properties.
Even fallen fruit from backyard trees could be enough to attract the wild animals, added McGrath.
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Burton felt it was a young coyote that attacked his cat because of its small size. McGrath said that, if it was a coyote, it could still have been an adult.
Coyotes are not big animals, with adults averaging 30 to 40 pounds in weight and coyote pups weighing in at around 25 pounds this time of year.
“Most people are used to seeing coyotes in their full winter attire, when they look bigger,” McGrath said. “They do not have their prime winter peltage this time of the year and look a lot smaller than they normally do. I suspect, if it was a coyote (that attacked Dusty), that it might not have even been a pup.”
This is the time of year when young coyotes born last spring get abandoned by their mothers and start fending for themselves. Not surprisingly, according to McGrath, this is also the time of year — as well as during another dispersal stage in April — when most complaints with respect to coyote sightings come in.
It is possible, said McGrath, that a young coyote that has not yet become as wary of humans as adult coyotes typically are would make a brazen attack on a pet. A young pup, he said, would not likely be as aggressive towards a human.