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Coyotes prowl Valencia streets

After attack on pet dog, family frets its under siege

Posted: September 17, 2008 8:53 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A coyote is captured on film earlier this month in a grassy area near a Valencia neighborhood. One Valencia family says it lost its pet dog to a pack of coyotes they believe is living in the area near Valencia Town Center.

Terry Vogelsang’s family feels trapped inside its home.

The family members claim they are under siege by a pack of coyotes that prowl the suburban Valencia neighborhood snacking on small pets.

The Vogelsangs lost their dog Max, a Yorkshire Terrier, on Sept. 3. The morning Max was allegedly murdered by the coyote pack began no different than any other day, Vogelsang said. She opened the back door of her home and let Max run out in the back yard. She never took her eye of Max as the small dog bolted up a rise in the yard and played among the decorative bushes along the fence line, Vogelsang said.

Max’s high-pitched yelp signaled danger. Vogelsang said she ran up the rise and saw a Coyote trying to rip Max through the fence. The coyote had Max’s leg in his mouth and was trying to yank the Yorkie through the fence. Several coyotes waited 20 to 30 feet back from the fence. “They were waiting to eat Max,” she said.

Vogelsang struggled to pull her pooch from the jaws of the coyote. Eventually the wild animal gave up. Vogelsang rushed her bloodied poodle to the vet, but Max was dead.

The Vogelsang’s don’t live on the edge of town. The Valencia Town Center is visible from their backyard. A woodland area separates them from downtown Valencia. The wooded area is home base for the coyote pack terrorizing the neighborhood, Vogelsang said.   

Coyotes have four basic needs: food, water, shelter and access, said Frank Hoffman, education director at Placerita Canyon Nature Reserve. Home construction in Santa Clarita Valley is bringing all those needs to the coyotes’ backyard, he said.

“Our pools and Jacuzzis are water sources and our cats and dogs are food sources,” he said.
Max was the second dog the Vogelsang’s lost.

Nancy Heaps lives next door to Vogelsang. Her cocker spaniel was allegedly disemboweled by coyotes after they orchestrated a deadly game with the pet, Heaps said.

“They will run along the fence line and the dogs will run with them thinking it’s another dog,” Heaps said. The coyote stops and begins digging. The dog mimics the coyote. Once the dog and coyote dig deep enough under the fence the coyote crawls under and drags the dog under the fence. Other coyotes hidden in the brush swarm in and kill the dog, Heaps said.

Mary Travis lives in Canyon Country where she witnessed coyotes playing the same game with the same deadly result, she said.
The fence line routine used by the coyotes to kill dogs sounds familiar, Hoffman said. He has heard of similar incidents. Coyotes are omnivores and opportunity hunters, Hoffman said. Dry weather the last few years and fires are partially responsible for the coyote killings, he said.

The 2007 wild fires pushed prey animals such as rabbits out of the forest an into populated areas. Low-lying brush burned during the fire, which eliminated cover for small prey. They ran to populated areas and the coyotes follow.

Vogelsang said her coyote problems date back to before the 2007 wildfires. She moved to her home seven years ago.
The pack of coyotes were already in the area when the family moved in. Vogelsang took precautions to keep the coyotes out. She put chicken wire along the metal fence in her back yard. The chicken wire runs at least a foot below the surface to keep coyotes from digging under the fence and getting in, she said. No one leaves food out and people make plenty of noise and let the coyotes know they are not welcome when they saunter around the neighborhood, she said
However, the tactics aren’t working, Vogelsang said.

“They are far more aggressive and much less fearful of man,” she said.

Vogelsang and her neighbors hired a licensed trapper to capture the coyotes and relocate them. Eight coyotes were trapped this summer but Vogelsang isn’t convinced the trapping will work.

“There were four pups spotted and they will be full grown soon,” she said.

Relocating the coyotes just moves the problem to someone else’s back yard and doesn’t solve the problem, Hoffman said.

Vogelsang chokes back the tears when she talks about her coyote ordeal.

“I am worried that the coyotes will run out of food and start looking at our kids,” she said.


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