By Dennis Smith
We live on what used to be the extreme edge of a small farming community, where about the only thing between our house and the foothills was a rolling hodgepodge of shortgrass prairie, crop fields, cottonwood trees and cattail sloughs. Of course, that was more than 40 years ago and so much development has taken place along the Front Range since then. Now it looks more like Jersey City around here than little old Cowtown, Colorado. Subdivisions, shopping centers, banks, convenience stores, strip malls, supermarkets and fast food joints buried the once rural landscape under a growing catastrophe of concrete and condos.
Apart from backyard bunnies, squirrels and songbirds, you’re not likely to see much in the way of wild animals here. Lately, though, coyotes have popped up in our neighborhood like potheads and weed merchants in downtown Denver. And they’re not behaving nicely. Of course, they’re not friendly out there in the boondocks either. Farmers and ranchers know all too well the havoc coyotes can wreak on livestock herds and flocks. In 2014, for example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that coyotes killed more than 33,478 sheep and lambs. That’s a lot of lamb chops. Rural coyotes also kill and eat newborn calves, goat kids, piglets, poultry and other barnyard critters, but they know to avoid humans for fear of ending up on the wrong side of a bullet.
Not so with urban coyotes. A May 2017 Denver Post video headline stated, “Coyotes in cities are bolder and more aggressive than ones in rural areas.” Urban coyotes lost their natural fear of humans in the towns and cities where they exist. Worse, they developed a taste for house pets and the occasional small child. They’re killing dogs and cats in their own yards with impunity, and have attacked several small children and bitten more than a few adults. A single Google search revealed at least a half-dozen coyote attacks in recent years on people along the Front Range, including a 2-year-old girl who was severely mauled by a coyote in a Colorado Springs city park, a 14-year-old boy in Greenwood Village and an adult male who was ambushed by a pack of three coyotes while walking to work in Niwot one morning. The adult beat them off with kicks, punches and a metal flashlight, but not before sustaining several bites and scratches to his hands, face and arms.
Three weeks ago, a pair of coyotes was spotted trotting down the street, a block south of our house. A few days later, two coyotes snatched our neighbor’s dog in broad daylight right at her kitchen door and mangled it savagely before she could drive them off. It died of its wounds at the vet’s office. This was the first coyote attack in our neighborhood, and you can bet the beer money it won’t be the last.
Dennis is a freelance outdoors writer and photographer whose work appears nationally. He lives in Loveland.