Increased coyote activity threatening to Hampton residents, pets
Tales of cats gone missing first unfolded a few years ago among the multi-acre home sites off Middle Road in Hampton.
All 14 of Jacquie DiCaprio's outdoor cats gradually vanished without explanation.
“The last one disappeared last summer,” she said.
A few weeks ago, neighbor Greg Farrell spotted his two Siberian huskies — Gracie and Emily — in an early- morning backyard standoff with two coyotes.
“I got chills,” he said.
Babs Mallen and Carolyn Hasselman, co-owners of nearby Bridlewood Farm, last saw their black barn cat, Midnight, in August 2011. The women then noticed a coyote stubbornly lingering by their horse barn.
“I see them at 9:30 in the morning, 10:30 in the morning and 5 p.m. in afternoon,” Mallen said about the coyotes at Bridlewood Farm.
Last month, another neighbor saw a coyote crossing the farm's driveway at 3 p.m. one day with a wild turkey in its jaws.
“We're kind of a disorganized coalition of neighbors who feel our children and domestic animals are being threatened by the coyotes who are invading our properties and barns,” Hasselman said about the coyotes routinely seen crossing pastures and slipping into woods near Cedar Run Road.
“We want to raise awareness that they're in the area,” Hasselman said.
Officials with the Pennsylvania Game Commission advise people to avoid allowing their cats and dogs to run loose.
They also offer to connect people with coyote problems with licensed hunters and trappers.
“We can't solve every perceived problem,” said Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor for the southwest Pennsylvania district of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
“As the coyote is increasing, so is urban sprawl,” Fazi said. “They are not looking to take people's children, but a small dog or cat running loose is easy prey.”
Fazi described Allegheny County as a haven for wildlife, including coyotes, with all of its hills and wood lots.
“Coyotes are here to stay,” Fazi said. “There's not a whole lot we can do as an agency.”
But demand for the pelts of coyotes, raccoons and other fur-bearing mammals is good, and Pennsylvania allows liberal coyote kills.
“There's no limit to the number (of coyotes) a hunter can take,” Fazi said. “You can hunt them almost year- round.”
Buyers in China and Greece lead the pack of people buying such fur skins, according to trapper Tim Giger of Middlesex, Butler County, and the Pennsylvania Trappers Association.
Giger said coyote pelts locally sold last year for an average $18 to $20 apiece, but a very nice coyote hide can bring $55.
“Most coyotes in western Pennsylvania are mottled brown and kind of crappy looking,” Giger said.
Specialists generally think coyotes in western Pennsylvania are bigger than those in the western United States because the animals mated with gray and red wolves as they migrated east through Canada and the southern United States.
Two years ago, the Farrell family's late dog, Shelby, also a Siberian husky, required veterinary attention after Shelby came indoors one day with severe bite marks on her rump, presumably from a big coyote.
At nearby Bridlewood Farm, the disappeared cat Midnight's sibling brother — Tippy — now stays indoors, locked up at night.
Next door, DiCaprio now forbids her children, ages 2 to 10, to play outside without their guard dog, a mixed border collie and German shepherd.
“I'm terrified,” DiCaprio said. “The coyotes tend to hang out in our back pasture area.”
DiCaprio reported seeing coyotes on her property at least three times in the last three weeks.
“It's usually around 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 3 to 6 p.m.,” DiCaprio said. “There are two that are gray and one that's multicolored.”
DiCaprio would like local officials to take steps to relocate the wild animals.
“If you would capture them, and release them somewhere where there's food, that would help them,” she said.
“It would take care of our problem.”
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.