Coyotes drag dog from Novi yard as owner watches

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Novi — A Novi woman is warning community members about coyotes after seeing her dog become prey.

Debra Oppat said she witnessed two coyotes enter her yard, snatch up her Maltese dog, drag the pet into the woods and disappear about 1 p.m. Saturday. 

Novi dog attacked by coyotes this week.

In the wake of the "frightening and traumatic incident," Oppat wants something done about the predators. 

"The coyotes have gotten very aggressive," she wrote on Facebook. "I have seen them running down 10 Mile between Taft and Beck on the sidewalk. I have also seen them on Taft."

Oppat said in another post that her dog hasn't been recovered.

The case was the first such attack reported this year to the Novi Police Department, said Lt. John Nelson.

"It's winter time, they're looking for prey when their normal choice of food would be rabbits or squirrels," he said. "They're here and have been here, but they're normally very skittish of humans. Once a human is on foot, they bolt, which is what they did when she came out of the house."

Because coyotes don't typically target people, Nelson said the animals are not a public safety priority.

"This was the first time we've got a call on it. I know it's happening in Canton and other communities around us, so it's not uncommon, but they are looking for small prey. People need to be attentive and have their dogs on a leash," he said. 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources receives a handful of reports each year of coyote-dog attacks, and an attack on a human has never been reported in that state, spokeswoman Holly Vaughn said.

"Generally, when coyote attacks on dogs do occur, the interaction is more often a territory dispute, rather than the coyotes looking for food," she said. "This situation was probably similar, and is certainly unfortunate.

"We encourage folks with pets to keep them under close supervision — take them out on a leash rather than having them loose in the backyard — especially when you know that coyotes are present," Vaughn said.

She said the DNR does not trap and relocate coyotes, but a nuisance-animal control company may be hired should there be a problem.

"Keep in mind, though, that coyotes are good neighbors to have, as they eat mice and rats, squirrels and other small mammals that we might consider pests," she said.

The DNR encourages neighborhood residents who see coyotes to make some noise.

"Clap your hands, yell, bang pots and pans, honk your car horn — just make a lot of noise and try to scare the coyote away," Vaughn said. "If they receive these stimuli over and over from all the neighbors in an area, they may move on to another location with fewer perceived threats." 

Nelson said residents can call the police if coyotes are attacking their pets.

"If we can get there in time to stop them, absolutely," he said. "An animal is considered property, so residents do have the right to shoot or euthanize the animal. But the first step is to place (pets) on a leash and make sure you're watching them"

Twitter: @SarahRahal_