A coyote suspected of attacking a two-year-old child was shot and killed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on May 5, and the agency is creating a hotline in partnership with Dallas Animal Services (DAS), the city's animal shelter, where residents can report future coyote sightings.
The child was attacked in Dallas' Lake Highlands neighborhood near White Rock Lake, after being left briefly unattended on his porch. USDA Wildlife deployed to the scene with the Dallas Police Department and DAS to capture the coyote. The child was taken to the hospital in critical condition but is recovering from his injuries. The attack made national news.
Neighbors said they'd made reports about the coyote looking mangy and exhibiting bold behavior in previous weeks. DAS sent out officers to the area but were unable to pinpoint the coyote's location.
At a press conference on May 5, DAS officials said that most of the calls they received were via 311, and gave them little information beyond reports that coyotes were seen.
"If there's any mention of concerning behavior, we will dispatch an animal service officer to look for the coyotes' patterns — are there trails they’re using," said Ann Barnes, DAS' Assistant General Manager - Field. "But unfortunately because of the way the information is coming to us, very few of the calls had good information for us to dispatch officers on."
"There were some calls that had great information, and an animal service officer (ASO) was dispatched," Barnes said. "We have an ASO that is a licensed rehabber and department expert in wildlife who was dispatched to some of those calls. But there wasn't anything we gathered that was sufficient to contact the USDA."
"We're hoping this hotline will have all those calls coming to one source so we can document the calls and map the sightings," she said.
Residents are encouraged to call 469-676-9813 if they see coyotes. For more information visit BeDallas90.org/coyotes.
Dallas Park & Recreation wildlife biologist Brett Johnson said that one factor that may have led to the coyote's unusual behavior was "unintentional" feeding by neighbors.
"While talking to residents, at least three mentioned that there's been people in the area who've been feeding the coyotes," Johnson said. "And when myself and [Texas Wildlife Services biologist] Adam Henry were driving through the area, we saw a number of examples of unintentional feeding. This could be anything from feeding cats outdoors to overflowing bird feeders. When you have food out like that, you're attracting rodents. And rodents attract coyotes."
Johnson said they weren't trying to blame residents, but to highlight the repercussions of feeding wildlife of any kind.
"When you look at these incidents, nearly every time it's a feeding issue, whether it's intentional or unintentional," he said. "Something as simple as a bag of chips that blew out the window — that's unintentional feeding. Even landscaping practices can lead to unintentional feeding. When you attract rodents, you attract coyotes."
Texas Wildlife Services biologist Adam Henry said that it was important to discourage any kind of familiarity or comfort level around wildlife.
"If you do encounter a coyote, don't let it be comfortable around you, and make sure your dog is on a leash — that goes a long way in helping to control dog-coyote interactions," he said.
In response to a request that the coyotes be relocated, Henry said it was futile and also against state law (it's a Class C misdemeanor to transport or sell live foxes, coyotes, and raccoons).
"To remove and relocate a coyote is breaking state law guidelines," he said. "There's a protocol in place on testing to check for rabies."
"Every city has coyotes — even a city like Chicago," Henry said. "We are going to have them. In no way is this a removal of the population. If we remove a single individual or a small number, more will be moving in. It's upsetting to have a bad incident. But we want to get back to having good relationships with wildlife, get back to having them not present a problem."