Alert, angry and saddened “06880” reader Peter Mackey writes:

The other day we said goodbye to our dear friend Murphy. We rescued our snaggle-toothed mixed breed dog a dozen years ago. He was a childhood companion to our kids, and the inseparable buddy of our other dog, Leilah.

Murphy did not die of old age. He died from a vicious, brutal attack by coyotes in our front yard, on Charcoal Hill Road.

It was a quiet Saturday evening. As usual, I let our dogs out at dusk, to do their final duties. But I’ll never forget that night.



Murphy had 27 puncture wounds, his muscles ripped from his spinal cord, and internal damage he would never recover from. I apologize for the graphic description, but it’s important we all are aware of how deadly these animals are.

As harrowing as that evening and the next day were, it’s the experience we had afterward that prompts this note. In the process of dealing with this, I’ve discovered that Westport is the only town in Connecticut that has an ordinance against trapping or killing wild animals on private property. Even predators as cruel and ferocious as coyotes.

Officer Gina Gambino of Westport Animal Control told us that Westport Code of Ordinance 10-1 and 10-2 forbid trapping or hunting  coyotes in this town. She said there is nothing that she or her department can do to protect our neighborhood from predators.

“I don’t make the laws. I just enforce them,” was the general response.

Coyotes are now at the top of the Westport food chain. Because surrounding towns allow trapping, they’re proliferating here.

All pets, and even small children are at risk. Murphy was a medium-sized dog weighing 40 pounds. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection warns owners of pets under 25 pounds to be aware of coyotes. That’s an outdated standard.

As our climate warms, coyotes who would normally be in their dens are roaming our yards, looking for food wherever they can find it. With their proliferation comes increased adaptation to human environments. The longer they’re here, the more comfortable they become.

The Mackey family (minus Peter) and their dogs.

The Mackey family (minus Peter) and their dogs.

I hope this letter increases awareness of this clear and present danger; opens dialogue between residents and the RTM about this ordinance, and encourages Westport Animal Control to take some responsibility for helping citizens deal with this issue, ordinance or no ordinance.

If you recently sighted a coyote on your property, report it to the police. Get your RTM members involved.

I can’t imagine I live in the only Connecticut town that places the safety of its predator population above its citizens and their pets.

Last night the coyotes were back in our yard, howling 10 feet outside our bedroom window. Fortunately, Leilah was inside.

96 responses to “Coyotes!

  1. Bart Shuldman

    We have seen coyotes in the past. How do we change the ordinance? Protecting our children and dogs must come first. Does anyone know how to get the change done?

    • Eileen Lavigne Flug

      Bart, adding something like this to the RTM agenda would require a written notice signed by at least 20 Westport registered voters or at least 2 RTM members, delivered to the Town Clerk or the Moderator. The list of RTM members is here: (there’s a link to a map of the district boundaries on that page in case folks don’t recall their district number).

      The recommended petition form is here:

      Eileen Lavigne Flug
      RTM Moderator

      • Bart Shuldman

        Eileen–thanks for your posts. I would think 20 signatures is easy.

        Can someone help start this as I am traveling to the west coast and will not be back till late Friday night. I would be glad to take whatever signatures you get on Saturday and add more from my neighborhood and friends.

        Please let me know who is willing to help start and I can meet you early Saturday and continue the work to get more signatures.

        Again–Eileen thank you for the direction on what to do next.


  2. RIP Murphy- my heartfelt condolences to the Mackey family. This was on the DEP site about coyote trapping on private land. Not sure how it relates to the ordinance as I am not a hunter.

  3. I am sorry for your loss of your precious animal there should be no reason why we cannot protect our property and our pets as for the animal control of Westport they do nothing they cannot even issue tickets to people who don’t pick up the dog crap at compo Beach

  4. Elizabeth Martin

    I think Bart lives in Old Hill section. I think we should contact Peter Mackey, the resident on Charcoal Hill.

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Bart Shuldman

      I do live in Old Hil and we have seen deer, fox and coyotes. It has been a little while since we saw the coyotes but they have crossed our neighborhood before.

  5. Kathie Bennewitz

    I am so very sorry to hear of your loss. We are neighbors on Greenbrier and will miss seeing Murphy. Our own dog has occasionally been nervous on evening leash walks going up the hill, and even last night woke up in an alarm mode barking though the widows twds the back yard. Coyote I wondered? Last year I saw a coyote that looked part wolf-huge- with a deer kill at the corner of Easton. It was so vicously attacked that I called Public Works to remove it before the ES bus came by.
    If we have a dangerous dog board why don’t we have a dangerous predator tactic as a child could be also harmed.

  6. Anthony LoFrisco Jr

    Based on the Westport ordinance and definition of coyotes as vermin, it appears legal to exterminate coyotes in Westport.

    Sec. 10-1. – Penalty.
    Any person who shall violate this section shall be fined not more than $50.00 or be imprisoned not more than 30 days, or both.
    (Code 1981, § 66-3)

    Sec. 10-2. – Prohibited.
    Hunting and trapping are hereby prohibited in the Town, provided that nothing herein shall be construed to forbid:

    (1) Extermination of vermin or the killing of livestock upon private property by the owner of said property or his or her tenant or agent.
    (2) Beagling and similar forms of hunting with animals where no firearms or other weapons are employed.
    (Code 1981, § 66-1)

    The Merriam-Webster definition of vermin:
    1 a : small common harmful or objectionable animals (as lice or fleas) that are difficult to control
    b : birds and mammals that prey on game
    c : animals that at a particular time and place compete (as for food) with humans or domestic animals

    The definition from names coyotes specifically as vermin:
    1. noxious, objectionable, or disgusting animals collectively, especially those of small size that appear commonly and are difficult to control, as flies, lice, bedbugs, cockroaches, mice, and rats. objectionable or obnoxious person, or such persons collectively.
    3.animals that prey upon game, as coyotes or weasels.

    What coyotes eat from
    They eat small game such as rodents, rabbits, fish and frogs, and larger game like deer. When they aren’t snacking on bigger prey, they will eat snakes, insects, fruit and grass. Coyotes are known for being pests because they will kill livestock and pets. In cities, coyotes will eat pet food or garbage.Aug 5, 2014

    It appears to me that since coyotes prey on game, they are vermin and since they are vermin, they are exempt from the hunting and trapping prohibition.

    • Michael Calise

      I agree with your analysis Anthony. Westport is the only town in the State of Connecticut which does not allow hunting even with a Bow.

    • I asked this same question to the State years ago.

      Coyotes aren’t vermin. The State classifies them as fur bearers and there is State regulation. The State considers vermin to be things like rats and mice.

  7. Sharon Saccary

    so sad. i think if the town doesn’t want the coyotes killed then they should be able to be trapped.

  8. Save our pets
    Let’s get everyone together to help the town s animals and children.
    We can’t be protecting the predators, please .
    I am happy to help spearhead this
    My deepest sympathies to the family.
    No Westport dog should have this happen to them

  9. Sorry that happened to your dog and I hope other pet owners are more aware being just letting their pets out. I always say go with them on walks or if you let them out stand out in the yard or field…wherever with them, because coyotes are in the city where I live and yes the city knows, because I was told when the coyotes help with rodent control. I feel it’s very careless off the city to bring these wild animals into residential areas without warning, so here’s my warning to all…be very careful of allowing your pets out on walks/runs alone there could be a coyote lurking nearby…even in your yards. Protect your pets.

  10. I am very sad to hear of the loss of your dog Murphy. I live on North Avenue between Easton Road and Charcoal Hill and often hear the howling of coyotes in my back yard at night. We have a toy poodle and I often worry about her being attacked. I would gladly sign the petition to allow coyotes to be trapped and hunted on my property in an effort to prevent more of these tragic events.

  11. Robert F. Corroon Jr

    I wonder if as a result of the mass deer slaughter, over the past 5 years to reduce the population, coyotes are more aggressive due to food shortagea? So sorry for your loss.

  12. Peter Mackey’s story of how his beloved dog was brutally attacked and killed by coyotes in town is heartbreaking. It is also terrifying and maddening beyond words. People increasingly talk about coyote sightings throughout Westport as if they were Blue Jays searching for berries on trees. These are wild, savage beasts, and they are killers.

    I am sure Peter can get 20 signatures to constitute a “proper” petition. I will surely add my name. But it seems ridiculous the RTM cannot, on its on, respond to what is obviously a clear and present threat to the safety of our town and its residents – including the four-legged ones. What happened was tragic enough, but what if it had been a small child who was torn apart while playing in his or her backyard? How many signatures would be required to do something about that?

    Any ordinance that puts the safety of these wild animals, with the obvious potential to kill, over that of Westport’s families is utterly absurd and should be changed today. I hope the RTM will take immediate action.

    • I am so sorry, Jim – but I just have to reply. True, coyotes are wild animals, but they are not savage beasts. Yes, they kill to eat and protect their turf, but they are not a clear and present danger, purposely and deviously hunting domestic pets and small children. Coyotes are not the fairy tale big bad wolf – they are in fact, native animals – just like deer, black bears, etc. They are not lurking in the dark woods to make your life horrible.

      People need to start taking responsibility for their actions. If one lives in a known area where coyotes or bears tend to inhabit, it is incredibly irresponsible to let your dogs/pets out unattended, let along a small child.

      While I am sorry that this family lost a cherished pet, it truly is not the fault of the coyote.

      • Laura, you are misinformed. And I’m insulted by your insinuation that this is my “fault”. This whole conversation has not been about blame. But about doing what’s right.

        First of all, the eastern coyote is not native to this area. According to the DEEP coyote fact sheet “coyotes were not originally found in connecticut but have extended their range eastward during the last 100 years…Coyotes were first reported in Connecticut in the mid 1950’s”. This is critically important to understand because this problem is a relatively new one only going to get worse if unattended.

        Second, you state that coyotes are not a danger. I just lost my dog. Killed by 27 puncture wounds and his muscles ripped from his spinal column. I’m sure you wouldn’t be saying that if you were in my shoes.

        Third and probably most misguided, you say that “people need to start taking responsibility for their actions” and that it is “irresponsible” to let your pets out in a “known” area for coyotes. We’ve lived in the same house in westport for over 20 years. And we’ve never had a coyote sighting until three months ago. Hardly a “known” area. You’re minimizing the fact hat this danger is increasing right in front of our eyes yet our outdated policies remain in tact. Also, the DEEP fact sheet states that coyotes will attack and kill pets less than 25 Lbs. Murphy weighed 40 Lbs. That’s a 60% increase over the current standards. If I had known Murphy was vulnerable, I would have done something different.

        I know this is a difficult issue. But I hope that cooler heads can prevail to come up with a solution that both protects the citizens of westport and respects the wildlife in our area.

        • Mr. Mackey, with all due respect, I truly am sorry for the loss of your beloved pet, as I too am dog owner many times over, where sometimes the line blurs between my human child and canine companions. The death of your dog sounds incredibly violent and horrifying, and I am not trying to add to your sorrow.

          My point is that one can not categorize coyotes, or any other predators, as cruel and ferocious, as you and Mr. Hood have described. Coyotes, like most predators, are efficient and opportunists in the manner that they hunt, fight for their survival. There are not a random terrorist threat, they are doing what comes natural to survive as their species dictates.

          And regardless if they are a native species or not to Connecticut, you claimed that for three months you have sighted coyotes in your vicinity. You have mentioned that you can hear them right outside your window. Well, if that is the case, even though your neighborhood was not known as coyote habitat, it IS coyote habitat now. And with that information lies the responsibility of knowing your surroundings, and understanding the potential risks, and taking the responsibility to prevent what might occur in your immediate surroundings with what ever laws, man’s or god’s law are in place.

          I am a product of Westport, but after moving West many years ago, I have come to realize that the world and all it’s natural wonders are sometimes things we can not possess or control. I have learned that even no matter how much property or space I surround myself with, I can never truly own or control it. Nature always has a wonderful way of keeping things in check.

          I do not mean to sound callous to your heart break. And I truly hope that the town of Westport and its residents come to some sort of management solution that does respect the true natural course of things.

          Peace to you and your family in your time of loss.

  13. Terrible. Our town is overloaded with deer. That’s the reason all the coyotes are here. When will all the bleeding heart liberals in this town have the stomach to start killing the excess deer and coyote populations, before something even more tragic occurs.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      I hope this seems a bit more incendiary than you intended. This bleeding heart liberal is in full favor of safe hunting ordinances. I don’t think one precludes the other. If the bow hunting restriction could be safely listed, I would welcome friends to sit on my back deck with a steaming cup of joe. I’m sure they’d reach their bag limit very quickly.

      • I AM A LIBERAL!! And I stand for minimizing the deer population allowing hunters (who don’t throw away but consume, ick) and eliminating the killer dogs any way that works, not sorry!

        • Ms. Negrin, Coyotes are not killer dogs.
          Not an Alternative Fact.
          Not Fake News.
          Please educate yourself.

  14. Sorry that happened to your dog and I hope other pet owners are more aware being just letting their pets out. I always say go with them on walks or if you let them out stand out in the yard or field…wherever with them, because coyotes are in the city where I live and yes the city knows, because I was told when the coyotes help with rodent control. I feel it’s very careless off the city to bring these wild animals into residential areas without warning, so here’s my warning to all…be very careful of allowing your pets out on walks/runs alone there could be a coyote lurking nearby…even in your yards. Protect your pets.

  15. Robert F. Corroon Jr

    Interesting fact: coyotes don’t hunt in packs they only socialize in packs, so if this was a pack kill it was territorial in nature, I would assume. So sad.

    • Mr. Corroon, I am not privy to the exact and accurate analysis of this unfortunate pet vs. coyote confrontation, but it is very a-typical, and therefore doubtful, that this was a coyote “pack” kill. Coyotes typically display solitary (with the exception of a mating pair) action. Yes, very sad for the pet owner.

  16. I know someone who carries a gun when he walks his dog for that very reason. He has seen coyotes on his walks and will defend in the case of attack. Legal!

    • I don’t mean to single you out again, Ms. Negrin – but carrying a gun while walking your dog to protect it from coyotes is got to be the stupidest thing I have heard in this whole debate. If in fact, which is extremely not likely, a coyote attacked a dog that is accompanied, how on earth would a gun help? Very likely, the gun toting individual would shoot both the dog and the coyote in the mix, and I truly challenge any experience gun owner that they couldn’t make that precise of a shot. A better, and probably a more legal, option would be a can of pepper/mace spray to protect from unwanted attacks on a dog on a leash. And guaranteed, the chances of an accompanied leashed dog being attacked by another domestic dog are much, much greater than being singled out and pounced on by a coyote.

      • I merely pointed out what someone I know does. Me personally? I don’t know what I’d do if I came upon a coyote 15′ or so away from me growling with teeth bared….prob be wishing I had a gun. Pepper spray? I wouldn’t want to have to get that close…. I think I’m glad I haven’t heard of any coyotes around my hood

  17. Catherine Hurwitz

    Keep a close eye on phoebe !

    Sent from my iPad

  18. Harry Mortner

    Our dog was attacked by a coyote the past September. Up went the fence in October. The town was of no assistance when I called on earlier occasions. I hear the coyotes at night in the woods. They should be killed. They don’t belong in a suburban town where they are merely feeding on small pets and refuse. That’s not the natural order. THE LAW MUST BE CHANGED TO ALLOW FOR THE ERADICATION OF THIS DANGEROUS PEST.

    • Mr. Mortner, contrary to what you might believe, IT IS the natural order of wild animals to adapt and excel in their ever changing environment. Man’s law, even though best intentions go forward, can not change the natural law of order.

  19. I feel awful for the Mackey’s. As a dog owner who considers our dog part of the family I too would be devastated. However, before we get out our pitch forks, lighted torches and signs with Death to Coyotes lets remember there are consequences to our actions.
    Should we kill every hawk because we let our puppy out unsupervised and the hawk thought it was a rabbit. Coyotes are not big enough to kill grown deer but they have a huge effect on killing fawns and keeping the deer population down. My kids rarely played in the woods because of their parents fear of tics and Lyme Disease.
    I’m not sure what to do. Maybe we should just keep building houses on every piece of open space in Westport and then we could simply run over ever deer and coyote and solve the problem. I guess Westport will always have its own ecosytem.

    • Nicole Rivard

      Seth I couldn’t agree with you more!
      Unfortunately this person let the dog out at dusk and that is when coyotes generally hunt. And once a coyote finds easy prey it will continuously hunt in that area. IF you start killing all the coyotes they will just reproduce faster. I urge everyone to read Coyote America before hysteria ensues. OUr government has tried to exterminate coyotes through history and its only made them stronger and spread across America. HUmans are the most overpopulated animals on the planet and the more we overdevelop…the more we will have encounters with wildlife. WE need to adjust our behavior, not the other way around. And oh by the way, people’s pets are cousins with coyotes and wolves. Explain to me why if you love your dog so much you are so willing to slaughter it’s relatives.

      • Sharon Paulsen

        Great comments, Seth and Nicole. I agree with your opinions here.

        Many other good points posted today as well. It’s a good discussion!

        I live in Trumbull now (born and raised Westporter), and I’ve heard of coyote attacks on pets here too. I had a rescue kitty for about 7 years, and gently persuaded (ahem … trained) her to become an all-time indoor cat. Probably saved her life ten-fold by doing that. 😇

      • Don’t you work for Friends of Animals?

    • Charlie Plimpton

      Thank you Seth for bringing forward another point of view. Coyote attacks are generally rare especially on humans. The fact is that we are encroaching on their habitat with every open space we build on. Coyotes are a vital part of the ecosystem. They keep the deer and rodent populations down, which in turn reduces lyme disease in the area. If you remove one part of a healthy ecosystem other problems can arise. When Wolves were removed from Yellowstone, the entire ecosystem broke down because the top of the food chain was gone. Not all problems should be solved by simply getting rid of something. Keep a close watch on your pets, especially after dark and go out with them if your worried about an attack. If you see a coyote create a lot of noise, use bright lights, and you can even use odors like kerosene, gasoline or citronella to deter them. Please take time to think this issue through, because its not as simple as getting rid of them

  20. I’m so sorry, Peter, for your loss. What a devastating ordeal you and your family have been through. I, too, have seen coyotes and foxes in our yard — and we live about a mile from Staples and Bedford. Our dogs are often outside at night and I had been lulled into believing that because they’re in the 40- to 50-pund range, we didn’t have too much to worry about. But now I am worried. And I’d be happy to do whatever it takes to help make Westport a safer place for our pets. If there are petitions to be circulated, I will gladly help get them signed.

  21. Jacquie Littlejohn

    To learn more about coyotes, this informative link can be streamed until Saturday:
    Meet the COYWOLF. This Nature/PBS video can be streamed until Feb 4th.Learn about & how to coexist with these animals who live right in our backyards!!

  22. Barbara, I am so sorry to hear about Murphy. As you know (at times I think perhaps all too well), Jamie and I have been working on the house across the street for a while. On Saturday, I probably left just before the attack occurred. I can only offer that when we have been there at night, we have heard what seem to be a number of coyote howling from the land preserve behind the house (hmmm). I am not sure we can fence the whole of that area given the location of the watercourse and concerns that I am sure Conservation would have, but we will look into what measures may be taken to discourage their movement in the hopes of preventing another horrible incident in the area.

  23. Sandra Johnson

    I can’t believe that WP hasn’t done anything YET about the coyote problem that has existed in WP for a very long time!!! I moved from WP about a year and a half ago — I often would see a coyote in my yard (had acre of property – which was also near the Merritt – these animals seemed to be around quite often!! Get going and do something ( not sure what) about the problem before a child gets hurt!!

  24. This is why many farmers and ranchers live by this code: Shoot, shovel and shut up.

  25. I will start a petition this afternoon to get new rules passed in order to help regulate the coyotes and possibly allow people to trap them and relocate them. There have been too many pet deaths due to these coyotes. Something needs to be done about them. I’ll post the link in this comment section soon.

  26. The Regents Park Condo Development had a serious problem with coyotes about seven years ago. The condo development is about two thirds surrounded by wetlands. Coyotes decided to take refuge in the wetlands and frequently roamed around the development. We thought that they would disappear after a week or so but instead the sightings of them in the development became more frequent. I called the Town’s animal control officer who recommended a trapper who would come down and remedy the problem. This was really good news because people were afraid to walk their dogs in the development and /or let their children out to play. The trapper came over and assessed the situation and decided to set a few traps on the fringes of the wetlands. The traps did not work and the coyotes still roamed the development. The trapper, who was recommended by the Town’s animal control officer and who got paid only if he produced dead coyotes , then devised other means to get rid of the coyotes. The other means really worked and the trapper produced about 6 dead coyotes. Since this time we have not had any problem with coyotes meandering around the development.
    I originally lived in the San Fernando Valley in the Los Angeles area and coyotes were a frequent problem. They are dangerous and will take out a domestic dog with no problem. There was an incident where I lived where a few coyotes attacked a small child. Coyotes can also become rabid and when this happens they will attack just about anything that moves.
    I agree with the other gentlemen’s comment that coyotes keep the deer population at bay however I would much rather have more deer and fewer coyotes.

  27. I live in Westchester County but was there the night that the Mackey’s darling dog Murphy — ironically, a rescue — was attacked. A recent Nature documentary on the “coy wolf” — a suspected hybrid also called the Eastern coyote — showed just how comfortable these stealthy predators have become in suburban neighborhoods. I would encourage all municipalities in local counties to address through culling programs both the explosion of deer populations and the infiltration of aggressive coyotes. It’s too late for Murphy, but other dogs will rely on their owners to stay close to them outdoors at dawn and dusk.

  28. How frightening is this! I don’t know how the owners could recover after seeing their precious dog mauled.

    I think it’s wild and crazy that Westport is the only town in CT not to have restrictions on these animals. I’m certainly going to write my representative!

    I know Rookie’s a big guy, but just be watchful as you’ve got a den behind your house!

    Are you on the beach yet? Mucho jealous-o!

    Xo Me

    Sent from my iPhone


  29. I’m so sorry for the loss of your four legged family member Murphy.
    And such a violent exit.
    No words.

  30. The plain truth the people in your community don’t want deer hunting or any type of animal conservation so the ugly truth is more attacks on animals and children that are easy prey and not to mention a increase in liyme disease ,they coyotes are there for the deer for the most part not just because the property value ,we here in the hunting community will help all though your community choose not to allow hunting becuase of selfish reasons,will be here for you and help you just need to reach out to the the town on your part ,to change there ban on hunting .

    • I lived in Redding for 10 years and every year we allowed bow hunters to hunt deer on our 6 acres. There are way too many deer among us! The coyotes are nature’s way of evening up the odds but to what purpose when the coyotes (coy wolfs) end up killing our pets and sooner or later kids, easier prey and slow to escape before anything is done. The deer and the “dogs” are vermin/pests. My opinion.

      • Sharon Paulsen

        Funny thing is that my hubby and I lived in Easton for about 6 years, and not once did we encounter (or hear) any coyotes. We were avid walkers/hikers, at all times of day or eves. Even hit the Aspetuck trails often. Nadda.
        And I would think the area would have been ripe for all kinds of wildlife “sightings” and probable/tragic pet losses.

        But, the balance of all things ecological seem to ebb and flow. Our time in Easton was early aughts, and since then, I’ve heard of more bear sightings in and around Easton, and also Fairfield.

        • Arm yourself?

          • Sharon Paulsen

            No, we didn’t. Still don’t. Not even with pepper spray.

            We never had dogs/pets with us on the hikes. Had kitties at home only. We were both previous dog owners though, but lucky to avoid tragedies such as coyote attacks, car-meets-pet accidents, etc.

            We have been extremely fortunate, to be sure.

            I am a liberal too (I actually call myself more of a progressive, and I’m not really into the limiting labels anyway), but I’m not against certain “pure hunting” practices to help counteract the imbalances of wildlife, likely caused by human “activity” to begin with.

            I kindof like the bow and arrow idea, but only if a good marksman partakes – otherwise, too much suffering for the animal. And I’m a sap about any creature in pain. 🙂

  31. Heidi C. McGee

    Kit, I am sorry for you and your family’s loss.

  32. Moving from Wilton, a town with a very aggressive Deer Population control program as well as a town that’s personally seen a number of Coyote attacks to pets and other small animals in our own backyards, I chose to live in this area, because of the fact that we didn’t have such an aggressive hunting program in place. You see – I too have had pets killed (due to a loose attack dog in our neighborhood) but I’ve also witnessed the slow death of a deer injured by an inexperienced bow hunter, bleeding out on my property. In that town, as part of a conservation commission, I saw people being harassed to allow hunters on their property (including my neighbor who had a tree stand literally 30 feet from my deck), and being told to mind my business, when I asked if more humane ways of deer population control could be explored in our town. I am terribly sorry for your loss. And I know this is terribly painful from first hand experience. But the idea of trapping, etc, makes me nervous and I just ask and hope all smart heads can sit down, research and recommend more humane ways to help manage this growing issue because its clearly not going to resolve itself. We must all be vigilant in how we manage our pets especially when outdoors. This is a part of life in living in our suburbs. There’s just too many ways they can be hurt, without our supervision.

  33. Kate Greenberg

    So Sorry for your loss!! The same thing happened to our puggle 2yrs ago. We live off of Newtown Tnpke & right around dusk I let her out to do her business and she disappeared. We searched and called for her until early morning, we figured she wondered off the property & was lost even though we have an electric fence. We went out later in the morning to search again & that’s when our neighbor called to let us know they had found her body in their back yard. It’s such an awful way to imagine your beloved pet being killed. Coyotes kill dogs for sport not as a food source. We have a new puggle now but never let her off lease at night. I’ve spotted numerous times the Coyote/wolf hybrid on our street & packs of Coyotes, very creepy to walk the dog at night around here…

  34. What a terrible loss! Thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention and hopefully it can be changed ASAP in Murphys honor. RIP sweet pup.

  35. So very sorry, Peter, for your family’s loss. What a horrible tragedy. We, too, hear the coyotes (live off of North Ave.) and it’s time we, as Westporters, be proactive about this issue that is real. Please let me know of a petition that can be signed or how I can help.

  36. Holly Wheeler

    RIP Murphy. Deepest sympathies to the Mackeys.

  37. Thanks everyone for all your comments of support. And thanks Dan for posting!!! Its gratifying to see that my letter had such an impact on raising awareness and concern for this issue.

    I’m not sure where this is headed. I’ve heard from RTM members offering their support to at least clarify the ordinance (since there’s so much confusion over even what it means). While others have offered to spearhead a petition, if needed.

    No matter what the ultimate outcome is, i hope this has the potential of saving another furry friend’s life by prompting us all to be more conscious of the predators that live among us.

    I hope also that, heaven forbid, if this happens to someone else, their pain won’t be exacerbated by a confused response from Westport town government.

    By the way…I’m about as liberal as they come. So to those of you who think this is a liberal versus conservative issue, it isn’t. And i’m not for a minute advocating the rampant killing of coyotes. There’s a big gap between effectively managing a situation and murder. We can do better.

    Thanks again for all of your support.

  38. Sandra G. Jones Staples'64

    How very sad for the Mackey family…I do hope that Westport becomes the last town in Connecticut to join in in the trapping and elimination of wild predators within it’s boarders.

  39. To Peter, Kit, Margaret and Adele, Oh my goodness. Tom and I were so sad to read this. Keeping all of you in our thoughts. Susan

  40. Could garbage left outdoors be the real problem?

    • Sharon Paulsen

      I heard that can be a problem in terms of attracting bears. Unsecured containers, and the like.

      We keep our outdoor garbage cans secured, very clean (less scent), and even put several heavy stone pavers on top of the lids (because … raccoons, LOL). Sometimes we just keep them in the garage, in winter.

      Anyway, seems to do the trick for us. No problems … to date.

  41. Karen Fernandez

    This happened to us last March and sadly we were told the same thing, nothing anyone can do. This is awful and should be changed. Our pets should be safe in their own yards.

  42. Peter, Kit, Adele and Margaret, as you know, I am devastated about what happened to my wonderful and dear friend. Words alone cannot express my sadness nor sympathy. Taking care of your dogs, and many others, leads to a very warm and almost family-like relationship. To endure a horrible loss, and see the family suffer, is heartbreaking. I will help in any way that I can, but, Peter, you are correct in saying that there has to be a rational way of doing and changing things. My friend Jodi saw your letter and told me about it; otherwise, I’m not so sure if I would have known. When I read all of the comments, I was happy to see that this is a loving tribute to a faithful friend who was loved very much by all who knew him. Please, please, be careful with Leilah, as this coyote thought that Murphy was a threat to its claim on its territory. Hearing the howling again confirms the fact that they have staked your property and the area as theirs, and if they deem Leilah or any other dog in the vicinity as a threat, they will attack again. I told Jodi to be very careful with Siri, her huge German Shepherd, as the coyotes will have no problem with taking her on either. I agree with the other readers who suggested watching the Nature program, Meet the Coywolf. We need to know what we are up against, seeing that we have partially contributed to their proliferation. Anyway, enough said and as always, my love to all.

  43. At a time when many towns across the country, including right here in CT, are looking to enact bans on traps – all kinds, it is not the time to be talking about trapping nor is it a time to tinker with an ordinance that has protected much more than it has harmed or inconvenienced residents. I’ve dedicated many years to the rescue of dogs but cannot support a knee-jerk and over-the-top reaction to this tragedy when common sense and preventative measures will suffice in order that we can continue to co-exist with wildlife in this town. You crack the door open by modifying the ordinance, and you invite other dangers (i.e., guns) into our borders that are not welcome.

  44. Let’s also face the reality that even with such an ordinance in place your animals are still not safe from predators on your property. What makes them safe is an artificial barrier — aka ‘deer fence’ — that creates an impenetrable barrier against all but flying predators. We have one and we also have coyotes in our neighborhood and they still haven’t figured out how to beat it while our dog roams every corner of our woods-and-grass property. It’s a solution that isn’t workable for every lot but it’s been effective and given us total peace of mind for the past four years.

  45. As a long time resident of Westport, who served on the Deer Management Committee for three years, I would strongly recommend not lifting the no-hunting ordinance that is in place. If that ordinance were to be removed Westport would open itself up to hunting 24/7, and to hunters who live outside Westport and even who live outside the state. As a town we would lose the right to manage our town and personal properties as it pertains to hunting. Westport would fall under the DEEP and they would apply their hunting programs to our town. And most concerning, once under the DEEP we would never be able to get the protection of the ordinance again. As upset as the people who have commented on the blog are today, we could end up with an even worse scenario in town. J. Brown’s comments are spot on about what life is like in a town that allows hunting. And as Seth Sholes said earlier in the blog that there are “consequences to our actions”. Please let’s all remember this as we move forwards with our discussions.

    • Your wrong on this. The State gave the town the power to adjust and manage it’s hunting/trapping ordinance however it wishes. It just can’t be more open/liberal than the State laws. If the town decided that you can only hunt on Mondays while wearing a purple hat that would be perfectly fine under the special act granted the town.

      • I am not incorrect. If the ordinance was lifted we, as a town, would lose our right to manage our properties. DEEP would do this for us whether we wanted it or not.

        • That’s not the power that the State granted. Westport is the only town in CT that has the ability to regulate hunting and adjust boundaries. If the ordinance was totally removed then the State laws would kick in as the default. THE SAME LAWS THAT EVERY OTHER TOWN IN THE STATE FOLLOW. The town has the ability to regulate anywhere from a complete ban (which exists now) to having no ordinance at all. Between the ban or nothing the town has huge latitude on what it wants to do.

  46. Elisabeth Rose

    My condolences to the Mackeys, who I’m sure are still devastated by the loss of their four-footed family members. I have three dogs and a cat, and know how how special they are to me so can only imagine how tough this has been.

    Although I consider myself quite liberal or progressive, I do think there is a time and place to make necessary changes. To me the best way to do this would be to quickly become informed on everything about coyotes so as to know whether or not killing them will or won’t attract more. (This in reaction to what someone said earlier in the thread.)

    It seems that the best idea would be having a designated person in the town trapping them and/or culling them. This would make more sense then suddenly allowing hunting in what is mostly a thickly settled area. It would mean avoiding both hunting accidents and an unnecessary increase of gun owners.

    I also think that the culling should be gone (by the designated town person/people) with guns not bows and arrows. As someone mentioned earlier in the thread, bow hunting can result in a slow and painful death for the anomal. Many people -including J. Brown, who commented on this comment about- have watched deer stumble into their yards and suffer long and agonizing deaths. Unless someone is an amazing hunter (and the average person is not), there is no guarantee of a quick death.

    One of the first steps might be to inquire about how the Regents Park Condo Development worked with as per Tom Bloch’s comment above.
    Another might be to research the surrounding towns that have no ban, to compare their ways of dealing with the situation (but only comparing towns of a similar population.) I know nothing about it but there may be some subtle differences (hunting permitted but no bow hunting, hunting only by designated town person, etc), and some may be more successful than others.

    Even though I know Westport has a reputation for getting mired in lots of discussions and research, I think it would be a good idea to be cautious and explore options before just throwing together a petition without any forethought, unless it specifically states that we need to solve the problem soon and will have a follow up petition or proposed bill to follow. It needn’t take a long time, but I do think doing things in haste can result in major problems down the road. This is a situation where what I call a “credit card mentality” (act now, think more later) would NOT be a good idea!

    My two cents

  47. Audrey Hertzel

    My heart goes out to the Mackey family and their sweet Murphy. Something needs to be done about these ferocious predators before another pet is killed, or God forbid, a child!

    • Read the last paragraph

      California Town on High Alert after Coyotes Attack Children

      California residents are being warned to be more vigilant about coyotes after four attacks on children in the past month in the Irvine area.

      The most recent incident — this past Sunday — involved a 2-year-old child.

      “It was a child, about approximately 2 years old, was in the garage. They opened the garage up and the coyote came in and actually got the child on the neck area and part of the cheek,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife Lt. Kent Smirl told ABC’s Los Angeles station KABC.

      Coyote Makes Itself at Home in Georgia Kitchen
      Three Rare Coyote Attacks Within 10 Days Spark Worries
      Coyote Sightings Put New Jersey Town on Edge
      The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported four incidents involving coyotes and young children in the past month in Irvine, where the children have either been bitten or scratched by a coyote. All four had minor injuries from the attacks.

      “These incidents highlight the importance of communities working together to eliminate sources of food that may attract wildlife to neighborhoods,” Capt. Rebecca Hartman said. “When coyotes are fed, either intentionally or unintentionally by food being left out, they can become a public safety threat.”

      Trappers have recently humanely euthanized five coyotes in the area and one was linked back to an attack through its DNA, KABC reported.

      Officials are concerned that coyotes are losing their natural fear of humans because they’re now associating humans with food.

  48. News 12 came out to do a story about the incident. Here’s a link for those who are interested. We just want to keep the discussion going. Its by no means resolved. The ordinance needs to be reviewed.

  49. Kristen Lewis

    Our rescue dog was killed by a coyote in our backyard in February 2014. I started a Facebook page in his name to try to raise public awareness of the risk of coyote predation on dogs and cats. Both the CT DEEP and local animal control agencies seem to downplay the severity of the problem; to my knowledge, there is no real time database or reporting system which the public can access of where attacks are occurring in Connecticut. Please feel free to visit and/or “like” my Facebook page; please help spread awareness of the risks that coyotes pose to pets (

  50. we lost our little black one year old rescue kitty last May, her body eaten in half by a predator in our back yard found by our son while mowing the back yard. I have seen several critters: silver fox, red fox and mangy coyotes roaming around the neighborhood near our home, and Birchwood Country Club. along with deer eating my crab apples, and wild turkeys gobbling loudly in my front yard. No more hunting? So how do we control the wild beasts?

    • So sorry! How? Read back: like the farmers do. All I can say.

    • Case and point, Ms. Stuart: you can not control the forces of nature. Foxes, Coyotes, Raccoons – all common predators to the area, not a shocker that your dear cat is so-to-speak, fair game. Culling, hunting are common practices for controlling any species – but so are common sense practices of protecting your domestic pets/animals from natural predators.

  51. Sadly, these discussions about the human-animal dynamic often bring for display the very worst of human nature. Our desire not to gain knowledge or to understand, but to merely wipe away that which displeases, is singular in this world, and shames the very name of man himself. That which inconveniences us, is regarded as alien, disgusting, and horrific. We assign labels to classify its noxiousness… imparting a carefully planned and swiftly identifiable meaning within our own legal understanding: so that we may act upon our fears and selfishness absent any cost to our superiority, self-importance, and entitlement. Our clamor for its removal is thereby justifiable by this purpose-driven process. Calls to incorporate reason or reasonableness in our decision-making are attacked, in a desperation borne of conceit.

    • Lauren de Bruijn

      This may or may not be about the Westport coyotes.

      (Interesting to note, a “coyote” is also a person that helps smuggle migrants across the border.)

      Either way, you are on-point! THANK YOU Mr. Hood!

  52. Excellent, well spoken points Ms. Ryan. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  53. Vincent Petrecca

    The coyote population is directly proportional to our deer population…The mild winters are increasing deer in the Westport area…I saw 30 deer last night just driving around Longshore…
    I would not leave a child or a pet outdoors unattended..There is going to be a severe incident in the near future.
    Coyotes can not be controlled by trapping or direct extermination…They live off the young and old deer that cannot protect themselves…..All should know
    that every deer dies a violent death..Most do gooders do not understand this.

    Ct has 169 towns…only one, Westport does not allow bowhunting for deer. We can easily establish basic rules for deer hunting i.e. must be from min 10 ft high stand, only to licensed hunters who have passed all safety courses, minimum acreage….only weekdays..
    every other shoreline town including Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan etc allows controlled hunting..No one has been hurt in any way..
    Give this a fair trial….maybe two years..

    A lower deer population will lower coyote presence …reduce tick/lyme disease infestation, lower auto accidents and simply provide a safer Westport for all…

  54. Ashley Owens

    This does not talk about the coyote food chain, this is talking about a dog