POCATELLO, Idaho - The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is still looking for a pair of coyotes that attacked a small dog on a Pocatello trail earlier this week.
In the meantime, Fish and Game's Jennifer Jackson said Sunday's attack could have been a lot worse, noting that it's unusual for coyotes to be bold enough to approach people in this manner.
"It is unusual for coyotes to approach and even grab a dog that is on a leash under the control of the owner on a well-used trail," Jackson said. "It did take us aback a bit to hear that report."
She said the dog's owner handled the situation correctly.
"Before they even came to her dog, she made herself look as big as she could by posturing, yelling, and trying to be dominant. Then one of them became brave and bold and grabbed her dog, but then released it quickly."
Jackson said the coyote could have killed the dog if it wanted to, but suspects it was just offering a warning since there could be a nearby den with coyote pups the adult coyotes were trying to protect.
Although the attack itself was unusual, seeing coyotes this close to town is growing increasingly more and more common.
According to both Jackson and Idaho State University biological sciences professor Dr. Terry Bowyer, the more we expand our human habitat into wildlife territory, the more common it will be to encounter these mangy critters.
"I don't think this is especially unusual," Bowyer said. "Especially as coyotes become habituated to people and their activities, they will approach them closely."
He added this year's dense snow pack on the mountains have also helped push wildlife down into more urban areas.
"We've had good snow fall this year and we've also had a lot of thawing and melting recently that might be influencing that as well. So, climate change could have an effect on: rodents, ground squirrels, and rabbits, which are all primary prey. So as that changes, coyote distributions could shift with it," Bowyer said.
Jackson said Fish and Game received another call about these coyotes this past week and so they have had crews out looking for the animals since Friday. Now, the city closed AMI Greenway Trail as a safety precaution.
Since that sort of attack is rare, Jackson added that shouldn't deter people from going out and having fun.
"I always say, 'don't be scared, be prepared.'"
She said it's important to remember not to touch baby animals (although sometimes it might be tempting), and to make sure you know how to respond accordingly if approached by a possibly-aggressive animal.
"There are different things you can do if you encounter a moose, mountain lions, bears, etc. It's just important to be prepared and know the areas you will be recreating in and some of the wildlife you could encounter there," Jackson said.
In the meantime, she said most of the time you're lucky to encounter wildlife. So, enjoy it...just not too closely.