Pets

Guard your pets - coyotes prowling South Mississippi

JAMES EDWARD BATES/SUN HERALD/2008 
 Just before sunset, a coyote runs through the Biloxi cemetery between the railroad tracks and the beach. With food scarce this time of year, critter catchers say coyotes find loose pets are easy prey.
JAMES EDWARD BATES/SUN HERALD/2008 Just before sunset, a coyote runs through the Biloxi cemetery between the railroad tracks and the beach. With food scarce this time of year, critter catchers say coyotes find loose pets are easy prey. SUN HERALD

GULFPORT -- Coyotes are looking for easy prey in Coast neighborhoods, including cats and dogs.

Ron Roland was on the way to his home Monday night on Second Street in Gulfport when he spotted an animal on the railroad tracks.

He did a double take. "It came right in front of me," he said. "It was a coyote carrying a dead dog. The dog was so heavy, the coyote was walking bow-legged."

Roland pulled over on the south side of the tracks and got out of his Suburban. He wanted to get a picture, but it was too dark. He got back into his Suburban and there came a second coyote. The coyote joined his buddy, about 40 feet away, still with the dog.

"They weren't scared of me," Roland said. "I was thinking that they would run, but, no they didn't run."

"I couldn't believe it at first -- coyotes on Second Street. That's something I would not have expected."

"I tell you one thing -- they were big, healthy-looking coyotes. They must be eating cats and dogs and all kinds of things." The Critter Catcher, Mike McDowell, was not at all surprised by Roland's story.

"That's par for the course," said McDowell, whose business is based in the Jackson metro area, but who catches critters all over. "We're seeing more and more of that. This time of year is really tough on the animals.

"In the neighborhood areas, the easy food is dogs and cats. That's their main feast." McDowell said residents should keep their animals in sight and, preferably, fence their yards.

Animals, he said, are always looking for easy prey. Coyotes have pups to feed this time of year, plus they depleted their supply of food in the wild over the summer. Cats and dogs are the next best thing.

Troy Arguelles, a trapper from Biloxi, said one lady in Kiln works at night. She raises Chihuahuas, but the coyotes have been getting them.

She has only one Chihuahua of a half-dozen left. When she gets home from work before sunrise, he said, she finds coyotes in her yard.

They run all over Biloxi, too, and they're smart. They've learned to use the railroad tracks rather than the streets.

The only way to get rid of the coyotes is to shoot or trap them, McDowell said. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks has contact information for trappers, but Arguelles said people sometimes don't want to pay to have the wild animals trapped.

"The coyotes are so bad right now," Arguelles said, "it's not even funny."

Roland called the Gulfport Police Department on the coyotes he saw. An officer responded quickly, but what was he going to do?

"It's not uncommon to hear a call about coyote," Gulfport police Sgt. Damon McDaniel said. "It's not just Second Street.

"Most of the time, when we encounter them, they don't stick around. People say, 'Hey, they ran that way.' We don't find them. If anybody does encounter a coyote, do your best to keep your eye on them."

He advises against approaching a coyote. Ever. He said the Police Department hasn't had much luck trapping them. Coyotes are wary of traps, especially cages.

McDowell uses snares or steel traps. One thing's for sure, he said: "Once an animal has learned to be devious and get into these neighborhoods, he's going to do it again."

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