Coyote attack on pre-schoolers in saddens Colorado Springs man who sounded alarm

Published: May 25, 2013, 12:01 am, by Bill Vogrin
Frank VerHey holds his little dog, Joey, who nearly died in December when a coyote snatched him out of VerHey's yard on North Cascade Avenue . The 84-year-old VerHey chased the wild animal with Joey in his mouth through his neighborhood before the coyote dropped his him. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Frank VerHey holds his little dog, Joey, who nearly died in December when a coyote snatched him out of VerHey’s yard on North Cascade Avenue . The 84-year-old VerHey chased the wild animal with Joey in his mouth through his neighborhood before the coyote dropped him. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Frank VerHey was disappointed but not surprised at headlines last week that coyotes had attacked two preschoolers in popular Goose Gossage Youth Sports Complex along Monument Creek north of Fillmore Street.

In January, Frank sounded the alarm about the pack of coyotes living in the park. He warned that folks walking and jogging on the trail along the creek were being shadowed by the coyotes — a big, black alpha male, a female and three pups.

He expressed fear the coyotes were unafraid of humans and folks were in danger unless authorities trapped and removed the coyotes.

Frank was convinced because of his own dangerous encounters with the pack of coyotes living in the park.

I met Frank, 84, in January and told his story of how one of the coyotes had attacked his 5-pound, 18-month-old Yorkie pup, Joey, a few days before Christmas.

A coyote runs across a field behind Frank VerHey's backyard Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. VerHey's little dog, Joey, nearly died in December when a coyote snatched him out of VerHey's yard on North Cascade Avenue . (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

A coyote runs across a field behind Frank VerHey’s backyard Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. VerHey’s little dog, Joey, nearly died in December when a coyote snatched him out of VerHey’s yard on North Cascade Avenue . (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The coyote hopped a fence and snatched Joey by the head as the pup was chasing birds in the VerHey’s yard. Frank watched, horrified, as the coyote took off running, little Joey dangling limp from the wild animal’s jaws.

Frank described how he chased the coyote and Joey through the Emerald Acres Mobile Home Park where he lives on north Cascade Avenue. Eventually, neighbors gave chase and confronted the fleeing canine, who dropped Joey and escaped. Despite severe wounds, Joey survived in what a veterinarian described as a “Christmas miracle.”

Frank and his wife, Mary, were relieved little Joey would recover.

Colorado Division of Parks and WildlifeBut they were also upset at the response they received when they called the Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency to report the dangerous pack of coyotes living in the 18-acre field behind the trailer park along the creek and just across from the park.

“They roam around here like they own the place,” Frank said. “Do we have to live like this, worried that they’re going to grab our dog and kill him?”

Sadly, Frank learned there was nothing the wildlife agency could do to coyotes living within the city.

Michael Seraphin

Michael Seraphin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency

I talked to Michael Seraphin, agency spokesman, who described the obvious restrictions on shooting coyotes in the city and the difficulty in trapping them.

Seraphin said the best he could suggest was for folks to harass coyotes whenever they spot them. Squirt them with a hose. Scream at them. Throw rocks or sticks at them. Make them feel unwelcome and prompt them to relocate. And don’t feed coyotes or any wild animals.

Frank scoffed at the idea that nothing else could be done.

“Someone’s going to get hurt,” he warned in January.

I visited Frank’s home a couple times and was amazed how boldly the coyotes trotted around the field along the creek. They stared at us. The adult coyotes ran within a few yards of Frank’s house as the pups played atop a mound of dirt. They easily could have been shot with tranquilizers and removed. Or just shot.

Instead, they remained to continue terrorizing the mobile home park. About 10 days ago, a coyote tried to snatch another small dog in the park. A couple days later, the black male confronted a man walking his two dogs. The man yelled at the coyote until it finally retreated.

Frank said he and Mary were sure something bad was going to happen again.

Of course, last Thursday, his prediction came true as two preschoolers were attacked across the creek in the park. One child escaped mostly unharmed but a 3-year-old girl suffered severe gashes to her head requiring hospital treatment.

Coyote mapThe attack triggered an aggressive response by wildlife officials. They tracked the coyotes to a den near Sinton Pond, calling the animals and eventually killing two adults on Tuesday. The hunt continued late in the week for any remaining coyotes, Seraphin said Thursday.

“We are continuing to look for coyotes in the vicinity but we haven’t seen any since the two were taken on Tuesday,” he said. “But it’s been pretty quiet ever since. There have been no howlings and no sightings.”

The remains of the dead coyotes were sent to a lab in Fort Collins to be tested for rabies.

Frank reports that the pack he normally sees outside his window has disappeared. He’s happy about that. But he remains frustrated with the initial response.

“I told the guy at the Division of Wildlife that somebody is going to get hurt of maybe even killed,” Frank said. “Is that what it takes? For a coyote to kill a little kid? Then they’ll do something?”

Seraphin declined to respond to the complaint by Frank and other neighbors that wildlife officials didn’t do enough to protect people from the coyotes. In the past, Seraphin and other wildlife officials have urged the public to haze urban predators that seem unafraid of humans and learn to coexist.

To see a Parks and Wildlife agency video about urban coyotes, go to this link.

A coyote seen near Garden of the God Park.

A coyote seen near Garden of the God Park.

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