Metro Vancouver cat survives coyote attack as experts remind pet owners to be cautious

Marc Verheil's son's two-year-old cat Luna is down at least one life but recovering after nearly being eaten by a coyote late last month.

A wildlife expert says the Metro Vancouver house cat's close call illustrates the importance of keeping pets safe around coyotes that prowl the region.

"It's been a miracle actually," Verheil said of Luna's survival.

"I don't think it's too often a cat gets snatched by a coyote and lives to talk about it. Or meow about it."

Carsten Bandt
Carsten Bandt

Verheil witnessed a coyote attacking his son's pet in the early morning hours of June 29. He and his wife were taking care of Luna while their son's apartment was being renovated.

Verheil was able to scare the animal away but not before Luna sustained a fractured skull, fractured vertebrae, a dislocated jaw and severe shock.

He brought Luna to Canada West Veterinary Specialists, in what the animal hospital described as a "semi-comatose" state.

"If I was a few seconds later I think it would have ripped her head off," Verheil said.

Luna has now returned home and is recovering but animal experts say Lower Mainland coyotes are active these days and pet owners need to be cautious.

Breeding season

Dannie Piezas, coordinator of the Stanley Park Ecological Society's co-existing with coyotes program, told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko, that pandemic-related restrictions could have people sticking to closer to home where they're noticing coyotes more often.

February to August, she said, is coyote breeding season.

"We have all of these people in different spaces during the days and in spaces where coyotes may always have been present," Piezas said.

Piezas said coyotes don't prefer pets as prey, favouring mostly rats and mice, but they are intelligent and opportunistic.

"If there are cats and dogs that are out and about and especially if they're unsupervised there is a risk there for sure," she said.

If you see a coyote, Piezas said it's best to be "big, brave and loud:" make noise, make yourself appear larger and don't run away.

'Fact of life'

Murray Smith, Lower Mainland inspector with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, said coyote predation of pets happens year-round.

"This is just a fact of life living in the Lower Mainland that we're going to have conflicts with our pets and coyotes," Smith said.

Problems arise, he said, when coyotes become too accustomed to being around people. When they stop running away from people, for instance, or keep hanging around human-occupied areas.

A person walking with a small pet or small child should pick them up and hold them above their heads if they see a coyote.

Keep pets leashed, he added, and bring them inside overnight.