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Coyote terrorizes East Bay neighborhood; multiple dogs killed, attacked

ALAMO — As he always does in the mornings, Kent Molinaro earlier this month woke up and let his 9-year-old Jack Russell terrier into the backyard to relieve herself.
But moments later, when he looked outside, he was shocked to find the little dog inside the mouth of a large coyote, who stared right back at him.
“She was limp. I didn’t know if she was alive or not,” he said when he saw Lucy in the coyote’s mouth.
He ran out barefoot and yelled something “not nice.” In the blink of an eye, the coyote was gone. Luckily, Lucy was released from the grips of the coyote, which he described as roughly 65 pounds, German shepherd-like and darker than the typical grayish-tan coyotes seen in the area. The typical western coyote weighs 15 to 30 pounds.
A blurry, shadow-filled image taken by a neighbor after sighting a large coyote in the Round Hill neighborhood of Alamo. 
It was the second time the family had its pets terrorized in the last couple of weeks, and one of at least six reported attacks on dogs within the past month in the Alamo and Danville area.
The Molinaros lost their beloved 12-year-old dog, Enzo, also a Jack Russell terrier, on June 25. He disappeared one morning, and wasn’t found until five days later, his small body partially eaten, in front of a neighbor’s home.
“We were shocked,” said Tina Molinaro.
The family has lived in Alamo for 22 years and although they have seen plenty of coyotes in the neighborhood and nearby open space they have never had a problem, she said. She said they have heard of cats being killed, but not dogs.
Lucy, who was bleeding around her neck from the coyote’s bite, has since had surgery and is recovering. This week, she sported a red banana to cover her wounds, wagged her tail, and stared out the sliding glass door to go outside, where she used to spend most of her time. Her family, like other pet owners in the area, are reconsidering how and when to let their pets outside now.
Since late June, there have been at least four dog deaths, three other dog attacks by coyotes, reports of dead or missing cats, and numerous sightings of the coyotes in the Alamo and Danville area.
According to residents in the area, the first reported death occurred June 16 when a 17-pound Chihuahua named Julius was taken and never seen again. On June 22, Enzo was snatched, and on July 2, a 4-year-old pug named Lucy was killed in Danville. Another Yorkie was also killed, though it’s not known exactly when.
Elaine Goldie, Julius’ owner, said her husband had let out Bianca, their 4-year-old Maltese, to relieve herself. But she made a sound they never heard of before — a frantic barking, almost screeching. It was then that Julius,13, ran out ahead of her. He disappeared into the darkness, presumably straight into the jaws of the awaiting coyote. He was never seen again.
“He didn’t even have a chance to fight,” Goldie said.
Nicole Kozicki , a warden of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife for Contra Costa County, said unfortunately such attacks could become common, especially with smaller dogs.
“It could be that one of the coyotes got a taste for it,” said Kozicki, who has been with the department for almost 30 years.
According to the department, coyotes exist in every county in the state, and Fish and Wildlife gets calls about sightings or attacks on pets daily. In recent months, there have been similar sightings of coyotes in Dublin, although no reported dog deaths.
Coyotes are described as adaptable creatures. Although naturally wary of humans, they can become accustomed to them, especially when food is involved, according to Marin-based Project Coyote.  They’re also motivated to go toward food left out, either intentionally or unintentionally, such as dog or cat food, or fruit, said Camilla Fox, director of the organization.
Coyotes are most active at dawn or dusk, and if they’re looking for food, it’s the most common time for conflicts.
“Often what we find is that these small dogs may be let out often in the backyard, in not secure fencing area,” she said.
Most attacks happen when the dogs are off-leash or unsupervised, she said.
April through August is also pupping season, a time when coyotes can be seeking food for their young or young pups explore outside the den and learn the lay of the land.
With a dry season this summer, the animals can also be navigating toward wetter areas.There have been sightings, for example, at the Round Hill County Club in Alamo, off Stone Valley Road, within walking distance of the attacks against Enzo, Lucy and Julius. The lush golf course could attract other animals looking for water, such as rabbits and squirrels, which coyotes typically prey on, Kozicki said.
Oftentimes, the coyote follow its typical food source, not necessarily looking for cats or dogs. But, it could have discovered the area is filled with domestic animals, which can be easier to catch than wild ones, Kozicki said.
Fish and Wildlife will not get involved in eradicating a coyote unless it’s a threat to humans. Wildlife experts say attacks against humans are rare, but possible.
A  2004 published study conducted by UC Davis titled “Coyote Attacks: An Increasing Suburban Problem” reported 48 attacks on humans in a five-year period.
In 2015, a surge of attacks occurred in the Huntington Beach area of Southern California, reported the  Los Angeles Times . In one year, at least 58 pets in the area were reportedly killed or attacked.
Residents can shoot a coyote if it’s threatening their property, which includes their pets, Kozicki said. But she warned about the dangers of shooting a firearm, especially if the property is close to neighbors. She also suggested alerting local law enforcement beforehand.
Trained professional hunters, or trappers, can also be hired, she said.
Kozicki recommends if residents see a coyote, they should scare it off by waving their arms, making lots of noise or even turning on a water hose. Project Coyote recommends keeping trash bins secure, picking up fruit from backyards, keeping dogs on leashes during walks, avoiding dog walks at dusk or dawn, and picking up small dogs when a coyote is spotted.

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