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Steve Payok, 73, of Warren holds his daughter's dog Bella, a 14-year-old mini dachshund, on Wednesday. Bella is recovering following two surgeries since she was attacked by a coyote outside her Warren home in the early morning of Jan. 25, 2018.
Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press

NORTHVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Toni Tesen's last vision of her dog Stanley was watching in horror as a coyote carried off the nearly 11-year-old toy poodle.

It's a sight she would like to forget. 

Tesen said she took Stanley and Shadow, her family's 9-year-old cockapoo, outside at her Northville Township home about 11:30 p.m several weeks ago in April. Shadow went to the bathroom and may have even been let back inside the home, Tesen recalled.

As Tesen watched, 7-pound Stanley spotted some movement — maybe a rabbit, Tesen thought at the time — and ran toward it. Then, up from the shrubs in the lighted yard, Tesen saw the back end of a coyote with a fat tail.

"Stanley was there one minute, and the coyote was there the next," she said.

► April 28: Cyanide 'bombs' used to kill coyotes, foxes under review by feds
► March 1: Tennessee Titans player catches coyote with bare hands
► Sept. 12: Woman drives 20 miles with coyote 'embedded' in car's grille

Tesen said the coyote snagged Stanley and ran into a field. She ran after the coyote in her house slippers, yelling at the top of her lungs.

"That was the last we saw of Stanley," Tesen said, adding that the only saving grace was that she didn't hear a sound out of Stanley, a rescue dog that she and her husband, Jim, had for about five years. The township is less than 10 miles from Detroit's western border.

In recent months, coyotes in the metro Detroit area reportedly killed or are suspected of killing several dogs.

In April, Kirsten Thomas of Royal Oak told WDIV-TV, Detroit, that one of her small dogs, Oliver, went missing from her fenced-in yard less than 5 miles from Detroit's northern boundary. She let both dogs out in the morning, but when she came back from making a cup of coffee, only her other dog Odie, was at the door.

She and her husband said they searched for Oliver and found some fresh blood and remains. They suspected a coyote attack, went down to nearby train tracks and spotted two apparent dens.

In April, a 5-year-old miniature pinscher named Rocky, adopted by Colleen Burke and her family, was snatched from his backyard, dragged through a creek and found with fatal neck injuries in a neighbor's yard. Burke lives in Farmington Hills, whose eastern edge is less than 2 miles from Detroit.

Coyotes were suspected in the death of the 9-pound dog, who was let out about 5 a.m. with a 65-pound coon hound, Guiness. Rocky was barely alive when he was found and didn't survive.

► May 2017: Incredible images show bison protect calf from coyote at Yellowstone
► April 2016: Michigan approves year-round coyote hunt

In January, Canton police warned residents about protecting their pets from coyotes after a couple told a television station that a coyote killed their Jack Russell terrier when they let it out to use the bathroom.

The warning came just two years after a bichon frise was attacked in Canton when its owner let it out into the backyard in the early morning hours. Canton is about halfway between Detroit and Ann Arbor.

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A coyote killed Stanley, right, a nearly 11-year-old toy poodle, in April 2018 in Northville Township, Michigan, which is about 10 miles west of Detroit's border. Shadow, left, a larger 9-year-old cockapoo, was not attacked.
Courtesy of Toni Tesen

Also in January, Steven Payok nearly lost his 13- to 14-year-old miniature dachshund, Bella, in a coyote attack at his home that has cost him $1,200 in veterinary bills for two surgeries.

Bella, who weighs about 6 pounds, was attacked when she went outside to use the bathroom early one morning when it was still dark, he said. Payok's son-in-law heard Bella yelping and saw the coyote with her in its mouth.

He said his son-in-law screamed. The coyote dropped Bella and ran into the woods. Payok said he thinks the coyote was under the deck, and that's why it was able to grab Bella so fast.

Veterinarians gave Bella a "50-50 chance" of survival, but weeks later she is walking, Payok said. Her fur is starting to grow back in, and "she's doing fine now."

Bella is one of the lucky dogs.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has received a few reports of pets being killed by coyotes in the Detroit area, said Holly Vaughn, wildlife communications coordinator with the department.

"Generally, when pets like small dogs are killed, it is because the coyote perceived the dog as a threat in its territory," she said in an email. "It is best if people take their dogs out on a leash to reduce the threat of coyote attacks on pets."

Spring is the time of year when coyotes are more visible. They are raising their pups and may be seen during the daytime and at night, Vaughn said.

► December 2015: Coyote euthanized after sneaking into airport
► November 2015: Pack of javelinas attack dog hiking with owner

They're also especially vocal, she said.

The department does not have a specific count of coyotes in metro Detroit, Vaughn said. But they usually use river corridors and train tracks to move around their territory, which often can be 5 square miles.

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Bella, a 14-year-old mini dachshund, is shown on Jan. 31, following her first surgery after being attacked by a coyote outside her Warren home in the early morning of Jan. 25.
Family Photo

In Michigan, coyotes are common in both rural and urban areas, she said. They're also good at living under the radar of humans even while living in close proximity.

They're moving and growing in number, and new homes are being built in areas where they've been living, she said.

"During the past century, coyotes have undergone a dramatic range expansion across much of North and Central America," according a May 22 article in ZooKeys zoology journal. "Previously restricted to the western two-thirds of North America, the species now occurs across most of the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific seaboard and from Alaska to Panama."

Since the 1950s, the species have expanded their range by an estimated 40% while other predatory carnivores have been in decline, the article said. Reasons for the rapid expansion could be the removal of predators at the top of the food chain, allowing coyotes to expand to larger prey, and elimination of once-forested landscapes in favor of agricultural ones.

Elsewhere this year east of the Mississippi, coyotes have killed:

• A Chihuahua on May 6 in Deerfield, Illinois, less than 10 miles from Chicago's northern boundary, WLS-TV, Chicago, reported.

• A Jack Russell terrier May 5 in the Lincolnia area of Fairfax County, a District of Columbia suburb, WUSA-TV, Washington, reported.

• A cairn terrier Jan. 30 in Natick, Massachusetts, near the Boston suburb of Framingham, WBZ-TV, Boston, reported.

• A terrier mix Jan. 20 in Wolcott, Connecticut, near Waterbury, WFSB-TV, Hartford, Conn., reported.

• A Pomeranian on Jan. 14 in Westfield, Massachusetts, near Springfield, WWLP-TV, Chicopee, Mass., reported.

"Coyotes may represent a new top predator in eastern North America and other parts of the continent," the ZooKeys article said.

The largest urban study of coyotes in the world is happening in the Chicago area.

Cook County Coyote Project researchers have tagged more than 1,000 coyotes and radio-collared more than 400, according to the Urban Coyote Research Project website. Coyotes are trapped live and given radio collars to identify and monitor where they live and travel every day.

► September 2015: Gray wolf confirmed in Michigan area, second since 1910
► August 2015: 'Pet' coyote euthanized in Maryland

The field work is done mostly in the northwest portion of the large metro area, including O'Hare International Airport. While the study is focused in Cook County, the findings apply to other areas.

Coyotes are often feared and are frequently mischaracterized as vengeful, blood-thirsty creatures, Vaughn said. However, they tend to be docile, retiring creatures.

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This coyote was spotted roaming near Cummingston Park off Crooks Road, north of 14 Mile, in Royal Oak, on Mother's Day.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Pfeil

No coyote attack on a human has been reported in Michigan, she said.

Two fatal coyote attacks have been reported in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Urban Coyote Research Project. One was in 1981 in California when a 3-year-old girl died of injuries in a coyote attack; the other was in 2009 in Nova Scotia, where a group of Eastern coyotes attacked a 19-year-old woman hiking alone in a national park,

The project also researched coyote attacks — bites to humans — in both countries from 1985 to 2006. It found 142 attack incidents, resulting in 159 human victims.

The attacks occurred over a wide geographic area, including 14 states in the U.S. and four provinces in Canada. Most of the attacks occurred in the western United States, including California and Arizona, according to the project's website.

The Urban Coyote Research Project states that based on a search of newspaper databases in the Chicago area, there were records for 70 attacks on dogs, 10 attacks on cats and alleged attacks on a duck and a pig. Between 1990 and 2004, the number of attacks on pets in the Chicago metro area increased from zero to two per year to six to 14 per year, with more during late fall, winter and early spring.

A search of newspaper articles in the Chicago metro area between 1990 and 2004 found 70 attacks on dogs, 10 attacks on cats and alleged attacks on a duck and a pig, according to the Urban Coyote Research Project. The numbers increased from zero to two to six to 14 a year.

The animals reportedly attacked almost 30 breeds of dogs with smaller breeds attacked more often than medium and large dogs, according to the project website.

► February 2013: Kentucky takes aim at growing coyote problem
► November 2012: Eastern wolves howl for recognition

Both the Tesens and Payok said they have changed their routines with their dogs. The owners check the area before going out. The dogs go out on a leash; their owners carry a flashlight.

"These things do happen. It can happen to you," Jim Tesen said. "You gotta take these warnings seriously and watch your dogs."

Contributing: Darrell Clem, Observer & Eccentric Newspapers. Follow Christina Hall on Twitter: @challreporter

How coyote populations have expanded

Source: 'Mapping the expansion of coyotes (Canis latrans) across North and Central America,' ZooKeys journal

Keep your pet safe

• Never approach, touch or intentionally feed a coyote.

• Remove outside food sources, especially pet food and bird feeders.

• Wait to put garbage out until the morning of pickup.

• Clear out wood and brush piles, which are good habitats for rats and mice and may attract coyotes

• Don't allow pets to roam free when coyotes are present. Keep them indoors or go with them outside, especially at night.

• Clap your hands, bang pots and pans, and make a lot of noise to scare away any coyote you see and let it know that this is your space and you don’t want it there. By making yourself seem scary and threatening, the coyote should retain its fear of people and be scared away.

• Contact a nuisance wildlife control company if you are in an area where hunting or discharging a firearm is not allowed and a coyote is acting aggressive and is not easily scared away.

Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources