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Cat maulings by coyotes prompt warning for pet owners

Animal control official warns Palo Alto residents to keep small pets indoors at night

A series of cat maulings in Palo Alto this summer has raised concerns among some residents and has prompted a warning to keep small pets indoors at night.

Two cats were recently found dead and mauled in neighborhoods west of El Camino Real, according to residents. A young cat was found on the 500 block of Military Way in Barron Park on Aug. 10, and an older cat was discovered at the end of Del Medio Avenue in the Palo Alto Orchards neighborhood last week, according to a Barron Park resident, who sent out an email alert to neighbors.

A coyote is the suspected culprit. Another resident saw one of the animals walking near Deer Creek and Page Mill roads.

Bill Leikam, a Palo Alto-based researcher of the Baylands gray fox, said he has come across coyote scat in the overflow channel behind the City of Palo Alto's maintenance facility.

"It is unusual for them to move down this far," he said. "The coyote came through at least twice back in July, but I've not seen any fresh signs for more than three weeks. When the coyote was in the area, one of the gray foxes set up a series of distress barks especially in the late afternoons/evenings that lasted for nearly two weeks."

The coyotes have been coming into areas where they are rarely seen, perhaps because of the drought, said Cody Macartney, Palo Alto Animal Services' lead animal control officer.

"This has been happening for several years, and we believe the drought may be a possible cause. All the cats mauled are typically left in the same fashion, which leads us to believe it is one type of animal doing it," he said.

It's not unusual for coyotes to follow the creeks and enter suburban neighborhoods, Macartney said. So far this summer, he estimated that about two dozen cats have been killed.

"We do receive several DOA cats a week some of which are mauled. Most of the cases have been coming from the south Los Altos area, closer to the hills," he said. "But this year, and in years past, we have had reports of cat maulings close to El Camino and as far east as the train tracks."

Food and water sources have become more and more scarce because of the drought, so animals travel further in in search of food. A coyote, or another other animal native to the foothills such as a mountain lion, travels along the creek into town to find a meal. Then they will follow the creek back up to the hills usually without being seen by people.

A home-security camera in Los Altos caught a coyote in the act two years ago, Macartney said. No mountain lions have been reported in Palo Alto, "but several weeks ago there was one in San Mateo and another in Mountain View," he said.

Coyotes rarely attack people, but if someone encounters a coyote, he or she should act big and make loud noises to scare it off. Same is true for a mountain lion.

"Never run or turn your back to them," Macartney said.

Macartney said he has a mantra when advising people about precautions related to coyotes and mountain lions: "Owners of small pets -- cats, dogs, rabbits, etc. -- should bring their pets indoors at night."

"Coyotes are nocturnal and hunt at night. I always recommend having indoor cats for a multitude of reasons, but the coyote threat is especially important," he said.

More information about coyotes can be found at projectcoyote.org. A video presentation the group gave to Los Altos Hills residents about coexisting with coyotes can be viewed here.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Trina
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 19, 2015 at 11:33 am

There was recent discussion that the coyotes are attacking cats in the Cuesta Park neighborhood of Mountain View as well, just west of El Camino Real.


8 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 19, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Most cats can be perfectly happy indoors.
They will lead longer lives.
Cats should be kept indoors, unless they can be carefully contained in one's backyard. Some people even build the equivalent of screened porches for their cats. Please be kind to your pets and take good care of them. Cats cannot get away from every threat, as some people inaccurately assume.


4 people like this
Posted by moo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2015 at 2:03 pm

I see no reason why any cat should be out-of-doors in Palo Alto, unless it is on a leash. And yes, it can happen.


2 people like this
Posted by for the birds
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 19, 2015 at 8:19 pm

Cats that roam around kill and eat birds. Once at a brunch, I was facing the french door and saw a cat lurking under the birdbath in the garden, just reaching up and helping himself to a six-pack's worth of finches coming for a drink. And dog owners are required to pick up dog poop, but cats on their nightly rambles aren't usually accompanied by litter-box-carrying owners. Cat poop in sandboxes and garden beds can make kids and gardeners sick. Keep the kitties safe inside where they can enjoy watching the birds without making a meal of them.


1 person likes this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 14, 2015 at 10:27 am

Our cat was killed by a coyote last Thursday, October 8, 2015 in the early morning hours. The incident occurred on the 1500 block of Fordham Way in Mountain View. The coyote was seen in the street and running along a hedge--very close to where the mauled cat was discovered. We have called to report the incident and requested a "call-back" from Santa Clara County Vector Control.


2 people like this
Posted by Raccons
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2015 at 3:00 pm

It isn't just coyotes, it's raccoons attacking and killing cats and pet rabbits. They come in through cat doors, and can open unlocked rabbit hutches.

Raccoons will eat rabbits, and do severe damage to cats with their long claws. Many adult raccoons are larger than the average male cat--and vet moxie.


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