2017-12-21 / Front Page

Owner bit as coyote, dogs clash at Beavertail

One of the pets euthanized after parking lot fight
BY TIM RIEL


SZEPATOWSKI SZEPATOWSKI Former Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski injured her wrist Sunday morning while trying to break up a brawl between two dogs and a coyote at Beavertail.

While coyotes have been an exceedingly contentious issue in town, Szepatowski’s dogs seem to have instigated the fight by jumping from her car to engage the wild canine, Police Chief Ed Mello said.

“In this case, the dogs seem to be the aggressors,” he said. “I don’t want the public to be alarmed.”

According to Szepatowski, the town’s unofficial animal control officer, she was taking a ride with her pit bull, Mookie, and her friend’s labradoodle, Rowdy, when she pulled into the first parking lot on the northwestern side of the state park. That’s when her dogs spotted the coyote, about 200 feet away near a garbage pile. The dogs, in a frenzy, accidentally triggered the window button and jumped from the car, she said.

“They started going crazy,” she said. “They wouldn’t have acted that way if it were a dog.”

Szepatowski then sped across the lawn in her car, blowing on the horn to no avail.

As a trained wildlife rescuer, Szepatowski grabbed her heavy gloves and ran to diffuse the scuffle. She began pulling the dogs by the collars, yelling at them, “Leave it.” She finally separated the dogs and kicked the coyote, which scampered into the woods. She was bitten on the wrist, although she isn’t sure which animal is responsible. There were puncture wounds on her wrist where the gloves didn’t cover, she said.

The pets also were wounded; Mookie suffered lacerations to his face while Rowdy’s ear was cut, she said. The dogs were taken to Newport Animal Hospital. Mookie, who tried to bite the vet, was euthanized because Szepatowski was worried the dog might become vicious following the traumatizing incident.

After getting the dogs treatment, Szepatowski went to Newport Hospital’s emergency room for her wrist, which was beginning to swell. She was treated with antibiotics and given a rabies shot. A follow-up visit to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence showed no tissue damage, she said.

According to Mello, who received Szepatowski’s phone call shortly after the incident, police officer Ron Jacobson was dispatched to follow the coyote’s tracks into the woods. However, he was unable to locate the animal. The park briefly was closed Monday morning while state environmental police unsuccessfully scoured the area for the animal. Because coyotes are frequent visitors to Beavertail, Mello said dogs should be leashed or restrained at all times while in the park.

Following the death of a 40-pound dog, which was mauled by a pack of coyotes on Wright Lane in August, Mello has taken a proactive approach to coyote management. Jamestown biologist Numi Mitchell, who directs the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study, has been tapped to track coyote packs in town using GPS collars. This will help police determine their food sources. According to Mitchell, the residential coyote problem is directly impacted on whether the wildlife can locate food.

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