An official from Lake Tahoe Nevada State Parks received a report of a group of coyotes attacking and killing a dog at Van Sickle State Park last week, which prompted the U.S. Forest Service to issue an alert to the public.
“What we had there was an issue where coyotes killed somebody’s pet,” said Lake Tahoe Nevada State Parks supervisor Jay Howard.
The public is advised to keep their pets leashed while traveling in Van Sickle State Park and other backcountry areas.
“The recommendation is really always the same,” Howard said. “Keep your animals on leashes unless they’re under really good verbal command and control.”
Agencies are not reporting an increase in coyote populations. But this is the time of year when coyotes are quite active, said Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy.
“We have not been hearing about coyote activity up there,” Healy said. “But often times people get confused with what state they’re in (in that area). So, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t coyote activity but they may be reporting it to other agencies.”
Howard said he’s heard more reports about coyote activity this year than in past year. He suggested there may be an increase in population, but there is no evidence to back that up, he said.
As coyotes are considered a nuisance animal in Nevada, surveys are not done to monitor their populations like game animals in the state, Healy said. The conditions haven’t been right for a population increase, though, he added.
“If we have a couple of good years in a row with good moisture, then you have an increase in rabbits and an increase in rodents, field mice, ground squirrels etc.,” Healy said. “With that increase, we have an increase in coyotes.”
Coyotes’ ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions and their opportunistic nature have allowed them to expand their range, according to a fact sheet released by NDOW. Problem coyotes do occasionally have to be killed for presenting a danger to humans or livestock, Healy said. The federal agency National Wildlife Services typically handles that process, Healy said.
National Wildlife Services is not currently working in the Lake Tahoe area, NWS state director Mark Jensen said.
In the past, conflicts with domesticated animals have been reported in Lake Tahoe. The last reported coyote attack on a human in the area was 1997 when one of the animals attacked a child in a fur coat.
Howard said the incident at Van Sickle last week involved a pit bull or pit bull mix that had wandered ahead of its owners on the trail. It is a pretty rare occurrence, he said.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard of an animal being killed by coyotes in that area,” he said.