Hungry coyotes prolific in Tahoe Basin |

Hungry coyotes prolific in Tahoe Basin

A coyote roams through an Al Tahoe neighborhood. Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Tahoe’s coyotes are out in force this spring, causing havoc among pet owners.

The opportunistic predators don’t discriminate when it comes to finding a meal: Mother coyotes have just birthed their litters and have a big appetite that often includes domestic animals.

Veterinarian Patrick Konarski says he sees three pets a week at Sierra Veterinary Hospital that have been attacked by coyotes.

Many of these pets are seriously injured and later die. A few years ago, a small dog was brought to him in the middle of the night alive, with its entire abdomen ripped open.

“It’s getting out of control,” said April Ryan, Sierra Vet’s receptionist, who is the first to hear a pet owner’s story. “It’s a nightmare for people.”

Konarski and wildlife advocates urge pet owners to take greater responsibility for watching their pets and keeping dogs on leash. Areas near meadows like the Tahoe Keys and Bijou are especially active with coyotes this time of year.

“Your pets are in more danger now than any other time,” said Cheryl Millham with the Wildlife Care Center. “They have their pups right now, and are trying to feed them, so they are taking everything they have the opportunity to take.”

Millham is a tireless advocate for not harming animals like bears and coyotes in order to deter them from damaging human property.

“Everybody wants to live, they need to go and hunt to make a living,” she said.

She recommends getting rid of chain-link fences in exchange for a solid ones that a coyote can’t see through. She also recommends making a roll bar on top of the fence of two sizes of PVC pipe that makes it harder for bears and coyotes to get a grip on the top of the fence.

Chris Healy, public relations officer with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said coyotes adapt to their surroundings and are capable of reaching speeds of 40 mph and successfully jumping 8-foot-tall fences.

Konarski said governments should take more responsibility for controlling wild animal populations. In his native Poland, wolves are a problem for agricultural lands, and when their populations get too high, hunting season goes into effect.

There is no prohibition on killing coyotes in California or Nevada. The only regulations for coyotes in Nevada are those requiring a trapping license.

It is illegal to shoot a gun within South Lake Tahoe city limits, or within 200 feet of a home in El Dorado County. In Douglas County, it is illegal to fire a gun, pistol or rifle within 1,500 feet of a residence without permission from person inside the home, or a shotgun within 500 feet.

It is also illegal in California and Nevada to poison wildlife.

“The best way is to not give coyotes a reason to come around,” said Carl Lackey, wildlife biologist with the Nevada Division of Wildlife. “If they are coming around a house, either their pets are running loose or they are feeding their pets outside. You remove the attractant and they will generally leave.”

Tips for pet owners

— Keep dogs on leash, keep cats inside, especially around dusk

— Do not feed coyotes or other wildlife, or they may be back for something else

— Open trash attracts wildlife

— To purchase bear and coyote-proof trash cans, contact Karen Manfreddi, Tahoe Bear Can Co. (530) 906-0327,, $70; or Tahoe Bear Box Co., metal enclosures (530) 546-3154, $800-$1,200

— For tips on wildlife-friendly deterrents, contact Cheryl Millham, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care: (530) 577-CARE

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