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Terrier snatched, coyote blamed
Owner has not seen Zoe the dog after attack in her backyard Sunday

Jessica Davey-Quantick
Northern News Services
Friday, November 4, 2016

When Zoe, a Yorkshire terrier, went missing from her backyard on Sunday afternoon, she didn't even leave footprints behind.

NNSL photo/graphic

Zoe the Yorkshire terrier disappeared from her backyard on Sunday afternoon. Her owner suspects coyotes are to blame. - photo courtesy of Shelley Grimes

The only thing left in the snow, according to her owner, Shelley Grimes, were coyote prints.

Grimes says Zoe was attacked by a coyote after she let her two Yorkshire terriers out on Sunday around 3 p.m. Her two dogs, Charlie and Zoe, were in the fenced backyard of her house on Rivett Crescent near Range Lake, when Grimes said she looked out and couldn't see Zoe.

"Charlie ... was looking towards the neighbour's house and barking. And then I saw the coyote running towards him," she said. "So I ran down and made a lot of noise, and he kind of stopped, and then I grabbed up Charlie and I started yelling out for Zoe but I couldn't find her anywhere."

Despite a search by friends and neighbours, there has been no sign of Zoe since.

She says it "didn't occur" to her to have concerns about her small dogs in Yellowknife. She's lived here for 10 years, and has had Charlie for nine. Zoe joined their family four years ago. When she lived in another part of town, they saw foxes and other wildlife frequently and kept a close watch on the dogs. But since moving to Rivett Crescent, there were never any instances she says, -until now.

Small pets are an easy target for a coyote, according to North Slave Regional Biologist Dean Cluff. He says even though Grimes didn't see a coyote snatch Zoe, chasing one off is a good indication that's what happened.

"It's likely that they got it," he said. "There's still some uncertainly I suppose but I wouldn't be too surprised if that was the case."

Zoe was under four pounds, which Cluff says explains why Grimes didn't see any blood or fur, or even hear anything.

"That's the thing - there may not be much of a scene as opposed to if it was a bigger dog," said Cluff.

The NWT SPCA warned dog owners on Facebook on Tuesday about a pack of coyotes that were reportedly seen between Frame Lake and Jackfish Lake. Cluff confirmed seeing groups of coyotes around Yellowknife, while not common, isn't unexpected. He says back in 2005, seven coyotes were spotted in the Niven Lake area.

He said coyotes don't form packs like wolves do, as they typically target smaller prey. Instead, coyotes are more likely to be alone, or in small family groups. Cluff said they've had reports of coyotes in the area since the 1960s, but they've been more visible since 2001, when a pair of coyotes living near the Yellowknife airport produced the first confirmed case of pups.

"Coyotes are very adaptable," he said. "They've been expanding their range, probably because they're following the deer. The deer have expanded their range because of humans. It's not just climate change and global warming, it's people changing the land, agriculture and opening up the landscape and creating some new habitats, and they've been able to adapt to that."

For now, Grimes said she's keeping a sharp eye on Charlie. That's the best advice Cluff has for pet owners. Grimes had a small fence, enough to keep Zoe and Charlie in, but not enough to keep predators out. He says coyotes and other predators like foxes and wolves can jump and squeeze through small spaces, as well as dig under fences.

He also advises owners of small pets to avoid attracting predators in the first place, by putting out food for wildlife like birds.

"That's going to attract wildlife, or predators. So that's kind of bringing on your own problem," said Cluff.

Despite the loss of Zoe, he said this isn't cause for panic. Neither the Yellowknife Veterinary Clinic nor the Great Slave Animal Hospital can remember the last time they treated a pet who was attacked by a coyote, and Cluff says the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has no plans to remove the coyotes, either by relocating them - which he said isn't the effective because of their large range - or killing them.

"Coyotes are basically a fact of life and there will be probably be coyotes all the time in Yellowknife, probably not that many, but it's not really productive or cost effective to try to hunt them down and kill them," he said, adding the exception is if one is becoming bold and presenting a danger. "Usually there will be another one that just takes it's place."

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