‘Murdered by a coyote.’ State and local officials respond to pet deaths in Charlotte

Staying aware as coyotes are spotted in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is responding to a spate of fatal coyote attacks on pets in south Charlotte, warning cat and dog owners to keep their furry pals inside or on a leash.

At a community meeting Tuesday night with wildlife officers and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control, a distraught couple from the Cotswold neighborhood said their family is mourning the brutal death of their beloved 25-pound orange tabby, killed in a coyote attack last weekend.

“Harley my cat murdered by a coyote,” Katie Brett-Rosenthal alerted neighbors on NextDoor recently.

“An evisceration,” she told The Charlotte Observer Tuesday night while attending a free workshop billed as teaching the public, especially residents in urban areas, about “coyote conflict management.”

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission called the meeting in partnership with CMPD’s animal control after a string of coyote sightings and attacks on pets throughout Charlotte in recent months.

Threads on NextDoor chronicle the disappearance of cats in such areas as Lansdowne, Cotswold and Foxcroft, The Charlotte Observer reported Oct. 26. And residents have swapped stories of near-fatal and fatal encounters they believe their pets had with coyotes.

“You could tell it was a fast kill,” Mark Rosenthal told the Observer of Harley’s death last Friday night. “His eyes were even open.”

Harley was a strong cat, “all muscle,” Rosenthal said, but the coyote and possibly a second one ripped the cat’s body in two to gorge on its heart and intestines. All of Harley’s internal body parts, including his ribs, were missing when Rosenthal found him.

He and his wife left the Tuesday night wildlife commission meeting resigned to realize the best option for their next adopted cat will be a life spent indoors.

Cats love and deserve to roam in their homeowners’ yards without fears of a stealthy invader lurking, Mark Rosenthal said.

Harley acted skittishly in the final months of his life, Rosenthal said. “My cat for months had a whole personality change. Sure as shoot, this coyote had been lying in wait.”

COYOTES ‘LOVE TO EAT CATS’

Unfortunately for pet owners, “coyotes love to eat cats,” said Falyn Owens, an extension wildlife biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Coyotes are “pretty much everywhere” in North Carolina, she said, including rural, suburban and urban settings.

Still, coyotes try to avoid humans, Owens told residents at Tuesday’s meeting. And coyotes prefer their dens away from people, in green spaces, woods or abandoned old sheds.

“They love dry culvert pipes and a kudzu ditch,” Andrew Cole, a licensed wildlife control agent, said. “It’s like an artificial den to them.”

They will quickly flee at the sight of a human unless the coyote is sick with rabies or another disease, Owens said.

HOW TO PREVENT COYOTE ATTACKS ON PETS

Keep small dogs on a leash when walking them, Owens advised, and keep cats indoors.

Tall fencing topped by a roller bar is another option to protect pets against coyotes, as well as outdoor cat enclosures known as “catios,” officials said at the meeting.

Coyotes, however, have leapt 6-foot fencing meant to keep such predators away, including in Charlotte’s Villa Heights neighborhood where a coyote took a dog away, Cole said.

Simply shaking or tossing a soft drink can with coins in it at a coyote will get it to leave, according to Owens.

However, even if homeowners hire a licensed wildlife control agent to successfully remove a coyote from their property, know that “another will quickly take its place,” Owens said.

CHARLOTTE COUPLE GRIEVES LOSS OF CAT

No suggestion for dealing with coyotes seemed to soothe the Rosenthals’ grief.

“I am still in mourning tonight,” Katie Brett-Rosenthal said at Tuesday night’s workshop, although Tuesday was the first day since the weekend attack that she hadn’t cried, she said.

“He was so precious,” she said of Harley. “He was my baby. I just feel like I didn’t have him long enough.”

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