Family urges caution after dog attacked by coyote

CLARENCE, N.Y. (WIVB) — Adam Keller was doing yard work Tuesday afternoon at his home in Clarence when he heard a troubled yelp in his back yard. There, he found Spencer, his 5-Year-old Shih Tzu poodle, dangling from the mouth of an adult coyote, one of two that have terrorized this family.

“I started running from the top of the hill, and when I got to the run off area, the coyote had Spencer by the back of the neck and was taking him into the woods,” Keller said.

Keller was alone with his dogs when the attack happened, seemingly out of nowhere. He quickly gathered Spencer and his other dog — a 50-lb pitbull — from the coyote’s reach, and brought them both to safety.

But the coyotes were brazen and he said had tasted blood.

“I picked up a garden tool and just started running after them, and they stood their ground,” Keller said. “They got back to the creek bed, and they stood their ground again and finally left.”

Spencer was badly injured.

“He took quite a bite. Took pretty much the back of his neck off, down to the bone,” Keller said. “She doesn’t understand how he lived.”

Adam, who is running for the Clarence Town Board, and his wife Nikki don’t keep pet or other food or water outside. They have about a half an acre of land in their back yard that runs into woods and a nearby creek. They allow both dogs to roam the yard because there’s never before been a problem — let alone a coyote sighting.

They also said they understand the residents of his neighborhood and the coyotes need to learn to coexist. But he’s hopeful the town can take some action.

“There was nothing I could do. There was no weapon. You were defenseless. In an instant, it changed our lives,” Keller said.

The couple said they’re left feeling helpless, and in fear for their pets and their children.

“She’s 11 months old,” Adam said pointing to his daughter being held by his wife. “And that’s the trampoline and that’s the playset. Any one of my (three) kids could have been back there and it could’ve been there.”

Barb Haney, the director of wildlife for the Erie County SPCA, said such attacks are rare, especially in the afternoon.

She said residents should follow the steps taken by the Kellers: Do not leave pet food or water bowls outside, keep a tight lid on garbage cans, keep an eye on small pets and children and regularly clean up birdfeeders.

Haney said coyotes are usually more afraid of people and larger animals, and will not challenge them. She said loud noises will usually scare them away.

She also says programs to eradicate coyotes are not always successful.

“What happens in these pack animals, when you kill one it increases their reproductive rates,” Haney said. “What we see is killing coyotes does not work to decrease their population.”

The town of Clarence says their hands are tied as well.

“There’s really nothing the town can do about it,” said Town Supervisor Patrick Casilio. “But we have reached out to the (Department of Environmental Conservation) to see if there are any programs where we can possibly abate coyotes, and we’re waiting to hear back form the state.”

Casilio said representatives from the DEC said if implemented, an eradication program in Clarence would be the first of its kind in the state.

For now, Adam and Nikki said they will do what he can to protect his family.

Adam is a combat veteran, and gave up all of his firearms when he returned from war. But this week’s attack made him reconsider, and be bought a rifle.

“In a moment, your life is just crazy,” he said. “As I said, now I come out with a loaded weapon just to walk my dog.”

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