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Wildlife

First the rabbits disappeared. Now Seward’s coyotes are killing dogs.

The animal walking up the night-dark driveway at the end of December looked like a dog.

Then Kim Kowalski-Rogers realized it was one of Seward's coyotes.

Jack. (Photo provided by Kim Kowalski-Rogers)

Kowalski-Rogers, wearing pajamas, watched from the window as her 10-year-old white poodle mix, Jack, headed straight for the predator on his turf.

"He saw the coyote too," she said Wednesday. "In his defense of me or whatever he ran after him. And the coyote picked him up and ran."

With friends, Kowalski-Rogers drove all over her Forest Acres neighborhood on the north side of town near the airport. They found Jack's body a few hours later.

Her friends covered him and wouldn't let her look.

"I did get to see his head. Got to pet him," she said.

Then she took the little dog she got to help calm her anxiety and had him cremated.

At least one other person in her neighborhood and another in the Dairy Hill Lane area had dogs taken by coyotes from their yards, according to Kowalski-Rogers, who works in the city finance department.

The Seward Police Department this week posted a public safety announcement on Facebook about "the coyote problem in the Forest Acres area."

Public Safety Announcement The Seward Police Department is currently working on a solution to the coyote problem in...

Posted by Seward Police Department on Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The department doesn't want people shooting at the coyotes. Instead, residents can report sightings to the police department at 907-224-3338.

Officers will try to live-trap them, Police Chief Tom Clemons said — if they can find them. Once trapped, the animals can't be released somewhere else, so they would be euthanized, Clemons said.

Even when people call, the coyotes are often gone by the time police arrive, he said. "They're so fast and quick and smart."

Clemons isn't sure why the coyotes showed up in the first place. But he figures hoards of feral rabbits probably had something to do with it.

"There were rabbits all over this town, and now it's none. There's absolutely none," Clemons said. "This is only a thought: When the rabbits ran out, they started going after pets."

There's no accurate count on the number of coyotes in Seward, authorities say. But the Kenai Peninsula — along with the Matanuska, Susitna and Copper River valleys — has the highest density of coyotes in Alaska.

Coyotes are relative newcomers to the state, spreading from Southeast in the early 1900s northward into the upper Tanana Valley, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Averaging 22 to 33 pounds, they're about a third the size of the state's more famous canine predator, the wolf.

They show up throughout Southeast and Interior Alaska, as far north as the Yukon River and sometimes even beyond.

A year and half ago, it was a sow brown bear and cubs that created problems for some Seward residents with backyard chicken coops.

Residents killed the three bears in October 2016.

"We haven't had any problems since," chicken owner Corinne Danzl said Wednesday.

Danzl said she sees signs of coyotes but they don't bother her chickens. They can't get over the 6-foot fence around the yard.

Jack rests in the saxaphone case. (Photo provided by Kim Kowalski-Rogers)

Kowalski-Rogers is looking for a new dog, another little poodle mix. She still grieves for Jack. She took him to work and to band practice.

"He used to lay in my sax case until it was time to go," she said. "He was such a sweet boy."

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