WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) — A New York man, who was visiting Rhode Island with his family, said he is still shaken after witnessing a coyote attack one of his dogs in the backyard of the home they were renting in Westerly.
John Burke and his family were renting a home on Kimball Avenue, which is near Misquamicut Beach. On Tuesday night, Burke was rinsing off in the outdoor shower when he heard his dogs growling from the yard.
That’s when he said he saw a coyote, face to face with his two Jack Russell terriers, 5-year-old Razz and 12-year-old Whitey.
Burke watched as the coyote snatched Razz up and run into the woods. He said he began running after it.
“As fast as I could,” Burke recalled. “I was screaming, ‘Razz! No! Drop her!'”
He followed the coyote through backyards and into the woods. Burke eventually caught up to it, but that’s when he realized Whitey was right behind him.
Burke said he went to pick up Whitey, and by the time he turned around, the coyote and Razz were leaving his sight.
“Coyote comes out right in the driveway, Razz decides to make a right and she goes into the brush. Coyote goes into the brush… she makes a squeal,” Burke explained. “Never to be seen again… until we found her.”
Burke said the Westerly Police Department, Misquamicut Fire Department and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) all responded to the scene, but could not find Razz or the coyote. The family put the message out to Westerly residents on social media, asking for help finding Razz.
Burke said it was a dog tracker that eventually found Razz’s remains more than 24 hours later.
He said the coyote that took Razz was anything but ordinary, even describing it as looking more like a “coydog.”
“It’s not a 20 pounder that’s going to hop over your fence and eat your chickens,” Burke explained. “This is something that I was smacking it in the face with a towel and it didn’t care. It was going to eat my dog no matter what.”
Now coping with the loss of Razz, Burke wants future vacationers and current Westerly residents to be aware of the incident, so it doesn’t happen to anyone else’s pet.
“I think there needs to be awareness out to the community,” Burke said. “People are coming in here. I’m from New York, I’ll be gone. There’s going to be somebody here next week. Who knows where they [coyotes] could be. Nobody knows.”
The DEM says coyote sightings in suburban and urban neighborhoods have become a routine occurrence in many parts of the state.
Friday afternoon, the DEM told Eyewitness News the Westerly Police Department called the DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement around 10 p.m. Tuesday requesting help to find Burke’s coyote. An environmental police officer responded and stayed until 11:30 p.m., helping to search for the dog, which was not found.
DLE then took another call at about 3 a.m. Wednesday reporting an aggressive coyote in the same area.
At about 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, an officer issued a $100 ticket to a neighbor in that area of Westerly for feeding wildlife. The DEM says baiting of wildlife is prohibited in Rhode Island. According to the department, the officer found an apparent feeding station — steak bones and other meat scraps laying in a greasy baking pan — behind the neighbor’s house. Remnants of the dog that the coyote snatched was nearby.
DEM said it has no authority to post warning signs in municipalities, unless it is on state property. On occasion, and after consultation with the Division of Fish and Wildlife, the DEM does advise RIDOT where to install “Deer Crossing” signs for safety purposes.
According to the DEM, residents should keep their dogs on a leash and avoid letting pets out at night. They also said residents should keep their property clear of loose garbage, which can attract coyotes.
Eyewitness News reached out to the Town of Westerly to see if it will be doing anything to warn residents of this coyote attack. The town did not initially respond to our request for comment.