Rhea Harding and her 100-pound Mastiff Boxer were in Elysian Park for an early morning walk when a coyote came up from behind them, biting her dog and leading him off the trail in a chase. She ran after her dog, named Diesel, whom she found surrounded by four coyotes. “I tried to remember everything I could from the National Geographic channel,” she said. “I tried to make myself as big as possible and started to growl and throw things at the coyotes.”
Harding and Diesel eventually walked away from the pack, which followed them for several minutes near a recreation center off Academy Road. She then took her pet to a vet after discovering that he had been wounded during the attack that took place two months ago.
Diesel is one of several large dogs that have reportedly been attacked by coyotes or other wildlife in Elysian Park in recent months. While small dog and cat owners usually have the most to fear from coyotes, the attacks now have some big dog owners concerned about their animals’ safety as well.
The coyote vs dog encounters have taken place in or near Elysian Park, where long and relatively uncrowded hillside trails are a popular place for dog owners to walk their pets. But the park’s more than 600, mostly undeveloped acres next to Dodger Stadium are also home to many coyotes. In addition to the attack on Harding’s dog in Elysian Park, residents have also spoken about incidents involving a German Shepherd, a Rhodesian Ridgeback and two yellow Labradors. However, the Eastsider could only confirm the attacks on one of the yellow Labradors and on the Rhodesian Ridgeback with the dogs’ owners.
More than a month ago, the owners of a large Rhodesian Ridgeback said their dog bolted off in the evening after their garage door opened, chasing some type of animal near the park. One of the owners heard a squeal and then saw the dog running back. The dog had cuts and had to get about 20 stitches after the encounter, the owners said.
They added that they were not sure if coyotes had attacked their dog or if it was another type of animal, but they were surprised because their dog weighs more than 100 pounds.
Another dog owner and Elysian Heights resident said coyotes attacked his yellow Labrador, who weighs about 80 pounds, while they were walking around 6:30 a.m. on a trail in the northwest corner of Elysian Park near a water tank. He said that the dog went out of sight around a corner, and then he heard loud barking ahead of him. He then ran after the dog and found him surrounded by three coyotes, two of them attacking his back legs and one attacking near the dog’s face and throat.
Hoang Dinh, a Los Angeles wildlife officer with the city’s Department of Animal Services, said that his office usually receives reports of attacks on dogs who weigh about 20 pounds or less, and that coyotes do not normally attack larger dogs.
Dinh added that the city’s wildlife office has not seen an increase in the attacks reported on dogs recently, though there have been some more sightings and encounters. Dinh said that the attacks mentioned in this article were not reported to his office.
Some Elysian Heights residents said they think California’s drought may have contributed to the coyote sightings. It’s been about seven months since Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the drought, and a dry summer could cause more encounters with wild animals, according to a Los Angeles Animal Services press release.
Dinh recommends that dog walkers wear bright colors, keep their dogs on leashes and carry whistles, air horns and umbrellas with them to make themselves look bigger during the attack. He added that individuals should always yell instead of scream frighteningly in an encounter and should not run away from wild animals.
Harding said she harbors “no hard feelings” toward the coyotes despite the attack on her dog. “They’ve been here before anybody decided to have any houses up there,” she said. “They can live in peace. We just have to be smart about when we choose to walk our animals.”
Anyone who wants to report unusual wildlife behavior or a non-emergency wildlife encounter can contact Dinh at 323-225-9453 or [email protected].
Amanda Schallert is a fourth-year UCLA student and the news editor at the Daily Bruin.