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Rise in urban coyote sightings, reported pet attacks raise concerns in Salt Lake County

Coyotes typically steer clear of humans but reports of coyote sightings along Salt Lake County’s foothills are increasing — even during daylight hours

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Elana Dawson walks with her dog Hank in Dimple Dell Regional Park in Sandy on Monday, Oct. 16, 2023.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Rounding a corner near her Cottonwood Heights home last Thursday evening, something caught Verna Askwig’s eye as she motored down the street.

At first she thought it was a dog, but she noticed it wasn’t wearing a collar. Given its size, she thought for a moment that it might be a wolf.

She turned her car around and stopped because she wanted to snap a photo. “It just stood there and stared at me and I took that picture,” which she posted on Nextdoor.

“It was a beautiful, beautiful, healthy coyote. I sent it (the photo) to my brother who hunts coyotes down in Monticello and he says it’s the biggest, most beautiful coyote he’s seen because they’re usually scraggly and skinny,” Askwig said.

Askwig, who has lived in her Cottonwood Heights neighborhood for 36 years, said she does not recall ever seeing coyotes or cougars, although she is aware of others’ reports.

“I usually don’t post on Nextdoor but I thought you know, I’m going to post this because this is right in our neighborhood and people need to be aware that they’re coming out during the day. This was in the evening. It was still light and so I was really concerned and that’s where a lot of people go walking,” Askwig said.

Social media channels are increasingly populated with posts about coyote sightings and the occasional reports of coyotes killing cats, dogs and chickens.

Linda Peterson, communication director for Draper City, said the city’s animal services office reports that “they’re getting calls pretty much daily from people who see coyotes.”

The deaths of five companion animals in Draper — dogs and cats — are “directly connected to coyotes in the past couple of months. Something this season is maybe making them come down a little further into public areas than they have in the past even though because of Draper’s location, it’s always something to be aware of,” Peterson said.

The city has information about coyotes on its website to inform residents, which Peterson said has been on the site for several years given the city’s proximity to the foothills.

Last week, a Draper family’s 11-year-old Pomeranian Chihuahua was snatched from their front yard by a coyote.

“It picked him up like he was a toy and I chased him over to the corner, and as soon as I got around the corner they were just gone in the night,” Paula Coggins told KSL-TV.


Sherry Keller runs with her dog Axis above Dimple Dell in Sandy on Monday, Oct. 16, 2023.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

According to Ohio State University Extension, coyotes have become the top carnivores in most metropolitan areas across North America.

They are rarely seen and only occasionally heard, generally avoiding humans even in large urban and suburban areas. They have even been spotted in New York City, where a coyote was discovered on the roof of a bar in Queens in 2015, CNN reported. Another was spotted strolling through a Queens neighborhood this spring, according to a Fox News affiliate’s report.

In 2016, a 6-year-old boy was attacked by a coyote that attempted to drag the child away at an Irvine, California, park, according to published reports. It was the third reported coyote attack in the area over a few months.

Ohio State University Extension describes coyotes as “opportunistic creatures,” noting their behaviors can vary from individual to individual.

“Consequently, some coyotes are able to thrive in urban areas with elevated human activity and minimal natural cover. Likewise, their diets are extremely flexible; coyotes are generally scavengers and predators of small prey, mostly feeding on rodents, fruit, deer and rabbits. They generally avoid eating trash, even in urban areas,” according to the OSU Extension report.

To curb conflicts with coyotes, OSU Extension recommends:

  • Do not feed coyotes, intentionally or accidentally.
  • Supervise children when outside.
  • Do not let pets run loose.
  • Never run away from a coyote. If approached, yell, wave your arms and/or throw something at the coyote.

Askwig said she has a 6-pound Yorkshire Terrier and she decided against walking her dog early Monday morning because it was too dark for her to see any approaching threats, whether it was an off-leash dog or a coyote.

“Something could come out of the bushes or whatever. So I want to be safe not sorry,” she said.