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Coyotes try, fail to snack on suburban dogs

RIVERSIDE – Four snarling coyotes chased a dog named Snoopy and his two canine companions, and then smashed glass panels on a door as the pets fled for their lives into their suburban home – another sign of wildlife encroachment around Chicago.

Owner Roger Nelson said the slower-moving Snoopy, a beagle and basset hound mix, made it through the closing door on the heels of a golden retriever named Lexie and a 3-month-old German shepherd, Bella.

"He made it inside barely," the 23-year-old told the Chicago Sun-Times. "One more step, and they would have gotten him."

The attack in Riverside, 10 miles west of downtown Chicago, began around 1 a.m. Friday as Nelson let his dogs out. The coyotes leapt a backyard fence and broke the panels by clawing at the door after Nelson rushed his dogs inside.

Nelson grabbed a high-powered BB gun and fired, apparently striking two of the coyotes, who ran off yelping, Nelson said. None of the dogs was hurt.

Riverside Police Sgt. William Gutschick could not recall a case where coyotes pursued pets so aggressively.

"This is their means of food now," the 25-year veteran said.

Coyote sightings have become relatively commonplace, including in Chicago proper. A photographer last fall took pictures of two coyotes milling near Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs.

At the time, an ecologist who has studied coyotes around Chicago said they have been in the area for a decade. Stanley Gehrt said data shows there are at least 2,000 coyotes in Cook County.

Other wild animals have also made startling appearances.

In 2008, Chicago police shot and killed a cougar in a North Side residential neighborhood. Experts confirmed the 124-pound, 5-foot-4-inch cat was a wild mountain lion, saying there were no signs it had been raised in captivity.

Riverside has seen other recent coyote attacks, including in early January when a Bichon-poodle mix puppy was killed, said Thomas Weitzel, the local police chief. He recommends residents keep pets on leashes when they go out.

One of Nelson's remedies to foil a future attack will be to install a higher fence. And when he lets his dogs out, he'll keep his BB gun close at hand.

Said Nelson, "I hate to use that kind of force, but I'm not going to let my dogs get attacked."

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