Police with Mill Creek MetroParks are on alert after a woman reported her dog was fighting with what sounded like a coyote on a popular walking trail Wednesday morning.
According to MetroParks Police Chief Jim Willock, the woman was walking her dog about 7:30 a.m. near the Scholl Recreation area when her quiet walk turned frantic. He said the woman’s dog got off its leash and started chasing something. The woman then heard it fighting another animal and called 911.
“When officers arrived, they heard what they believed to be a coyote,” Willock said. “She was pretty upset. Our officers were able to locate her dog, get her dog back to her and get her to her dog.”
The woman’s dog was not hurt in the scuffle. Officers searched for the coyote but didn’t find it.
“We did a pretty good search for it this morning,” Willock confirmed. “No one was able to locate the animal. It’s just… you gotta be careful. The park is a wild place. The park is meant to be that way.”
While your chances are slim to encounter a dangerous wild animal, it’s possible. Wildlife expert Jamey Emmert with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said instances of what they call “conflict” with the animals is growing.
“Coyotes are very comfortable in urban parks and suburban parks,’ Emmert said. “Some coyotes might run and some might not. Often times, domestic dogs are instigating a conflict between the coyotes and dogs.”
Experts often urge people to ignore wildlife roaming through neighborhoods and they will just walk away, but Emmert said coyotes are different and need to be treated differently, suggesting people dowse them with water or pepper spray or make loud noises to scare them.
“Anything that is obnoxious and loud is going to scare an animal away and make it feel unwelcome,” Emmert said. “The number one thing is to not allow that animal to become habituated.”
Willock said since he took over in 2009, this is the first time a coyote has been reported in the main section of Mill Creek Park. He said they are spotted on the bike trails occasionally, but it is no cause for panic.
“I don’t want to alarm people,” Chief Willock continued. “I don’t want people to be concerned. But if you carry something like pepper spray, and spray it in the general direction of the animal — trust me — they have a much stronger sense of smell than we do.”
Police don’t know if the dog was off the leash when it ran across the animal, or if the woman dropped the leash when the dog spotted it. But either way, keep a close eye on pets out walking, and don’t let them out of sight.
“All animals should be on the leash in the park,” Chief Willock cautioned. “There’s a rule that all animals are leashed in the park. Yes, you need to keep them on that. And the leashes need to be a certain length. We have people biking and things like that. If you have one of those long leashes, it could cause an accident with a biker or runner or something like that.”
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