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Coyote attack on Clarence dogs alarms pet owners

Adam Keller was busy landscaping early Tuesday afternoon in the backyard of his home in Clarence Center when he heard his little shih-tzu-poodle mix, Spencer, squeal in pain.

He first wondered whether Spencer had gotten hurt while rough housing with Keller's other dog, Lucy, a pit bull. Then Keller saw what he thought was a third dog fighting with his pets. But it wasn't a dog.

"I realized almost immediately it was a coyote," Keller said.

It had Spencer by the back of the neck.

As Keller ran toward them, the coyote dropped Spencer. Keller scooped up his bloodied pooch and ran back to the house with Lucy following behind. Keller looked back and noticed a second coyote hiding in the creek bed behind his house. The two coyotes were growling and didn't back down for about 10 minutes before finally retreating into the woods.

Keller got Spencer to a veterinarian who was able to save the dog.

"The back of the neck is ripped off down to the bone," Keller said.

Adam Keller holds his shitzu-poodle mix Spencer who survived a coyote attack Tuesday in Clarence. (Provided by Adam Keller)

Keller and others in Clarence Center say they've noticed a lot more coyotes in the area lately. After Tuesday's encounter and as a father of three, Keller wants the town to do more.

Clarence Town Supervisor Patrick Casilio says he reached out to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for guidance on what to do about coyotes after he saw coyotes two days in a row in the back of the Clarence farm where he has lived at for over three decades.

The incident at Keller's home is the first he's heard of such a brazen coyote attack but after his own sightings,  Casilio said he'd like to see if there's more the town can do.

Keller, who is running for Clarence Town Council, said he reached out to town officials and to the state and was told there's little that can be done about coyotes.

He said one official compared it to dealing with wildlife if you're living in the Adirondacks.

"I didn't move to a national park," Keller said. "This is suburban Clarence."

Keller made clear he's not calling for the coyotes to be killed.

"That's not the solution," he said. "You're going to throw off the ecosystem...We need to learn how to live with them and not the other way around."

He said he believes officials need to track the locations of coyote dens and do a better job of alerting the public to the presence of the animals.

Keller is considering starting a nonprofit to do just that.

"The citizens of Clarence are going to have to get together because it's only going to get worse," he said.

The DEC said coyotes can be found in all kinds of habitats, including cities and suburbs, and generally don't come near humans. But if they learn to associate humans with food, the DEC said in a statement, "they may lose their natural fear of humans and the potential for close encounters or conflicts increases."

There has not been an increase in coyote attacks in the region, officials added.

Right now, there are few options in the town, Casilio said.

He pointed out that private homeowners have a lot more options than the town or state.

"As a private homeowner, if the animal is a nuisance to his home, he can set up traps for the coyote," Casilio said.

Casilio wants to know if the town can amend its deer abatement program to include coyotes.

"One of the problems with coyotes is there's no predator for them," he said.

Right now, trappers can get permits to trap coyotes, and other small game, in the fall. Hunters can also shoot coyotes, but not within 500 feet of a private dwelling.

The abatement program would involve the town hiring a private contractor to trap coyotes past the regular hunting/trapping season but before the spring.

Casilio also asked about Keller's suggestion about tracking the coyote dens.

The issue is scheduled to be brought up at Wednesday's Clarence Town Board meeting, Casilio said.

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