Christy Bosarge said she screamed in rage as the coyote ran down the street holding her cat in its mouth.
“The coyote was not deterred in the least when I chased it,” Bosarge told the Decatur City Commission Monday night. “When I showed aggressive behavior the coyote showed no fear.”
The commission sympathized with Bosarge over the death of her cat, but took no action.
Mayor Bill Floyd said the city wants to find a solution to the coyote problem in Bosarge’s East Parkwood Road neighborhood but "we're not sure what that should be."
Experts on coyotes – including a trapper who attended the meeting – said the canine-like animals live throughout the Atlanta area. Eradication doesn’t really work because other coyotes move in to take the place of displaced coyotes.
“Cohabitation is the plan and process of choice for most communities,” City Manager Peggy Merriss said. The city website provides advice on how to get along with the coyotes.
Bosarge said the city cannot keep practicing that philosophy because the local coyotes have become too aggressive.
“If we don’t put the fear back into the coyotes they will dominate us,” she said.
Bosarge said she earlier bought into the idea of coexisting with coyotes. She fed her cat, Zaya, inside the house and keep and eye on her in the yard.
But around noon on Oct. 31 a coyote grabbed Zaya off the front porch while Bosarge sat inside about eight feet away. She said she chased the coyote down the street until it finally dropped the cat and ran away.
Bosarge said the city should, at the least, intensify its education efforts about the dangers of coyotes and make sure people know they exist throughout metro Atlanta.
She said cited several examples of coyote problems in the metro area, including incidents in which coyotes bit people or attacked dogs on leashes.
She said the city must do something to “put the fear” back into coyotes, and maybe that’s trapping on a selective basis.
Tarah Hadley, a veterinarian from Conyers and executive director of the Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort (AWARE), said trapping will not help the problem in the long run.
Coyotes are entrenched in urban areas, she said, and trying to eradicate them simply does not work. Dogs and cats will be captured in traps as well as coyotes, she said. Hadley urged people to be careful with their pets and make sure they don't leave food outside.
“It’s unrealistic to believe coyotes will go away because you buy a piece of property and put a fence around it,” Hadley said.
Chip Elliott, a trapper who runs the company Atlanta Wildlife Relocators, said coyotes are intelligent animals that have become familiar with civilization. They crossed into land east of the Mississippi in the 1960s and like living in the South because of warm weather and abundant food.
“When they’re raised in backyards for several generations they lose their fear of humans,” he said.
Trapping can instill fear in a small group of coyotes and thin out the coyote population in a neighborhood, he said, but must be maintained to have any long-term effect. Coyotes that are trapped must be killed, under state law.
The aim is to make coyotes afraid of humans, he said. When you walk out the backyard and see a coyote, you want the animal to run away, not stare back.
In the end, Elliott echoed what other said: "You're never going to get rid of coyotes."
Two other residents said their cats had died, presumably from coyote attacks.
Coyotes are not a new problem in Decatur. In February, residents of the Lenox Place neighborhood went to the city commission and complained about coyotes.