BOISE — Sadie Shelton and her Yorkshire terrier, Tucker, were nearly finished with their hike in the Boise Foothills on Sunday afternoon when she heard her dog yip — a sound he usually made only when startled or hurt.
She looked down to see the 6-pound dog being attacked.
“At first I thought another dog was attacking him,” she said in a phone interview on Monday. “It had grabbed him by the scruff and started running off the trail.”
She quickly realized it was a coyote that had snatched Tucker. Shelton gave chase, running off the Lower Hulls Gulch Trail and through the brush to try to catch the coyote and her dog. The coyote was too fast.
“I lost sight of them and he was gone,” Shelton said.
The family has assumed Tucker was killed.
The attack was the latest in a series of escalating conflicts between coyotes and trail users and their pets, including an incident on the same trail the previous day in which a Boise family’s dog was attacked by a coyote.
Attacks occurred in area known for coyote conflicts
Officials with Ridge to Rivers, the agency that manages Boise’s trails, and the city have been warning trail users about coyotes for weeks after numerous sightings were reported in April. The warnings have become common in springtime, when coyotes are likely defending their dens and pups. Trail users are advised to give the animals a wide berth and keep dogs on a leash if their recall is unreliable.
Boise Foothills and open space superintendent Sara Arkle told the Statesman in April that coyotes had been reported in Hulls Gulch and the neighboring Military Reserve.
In 2019, an off-leash dog was attacked on the Crestline Trail — just over the ridge from the Lower Hulls Gulch Trail — by a pack of coyotes presumed to be protecting a den. At the time, Arkle said the coyotes “were able to entice the dog to chase them” before attacking and biting the dog, which was expected to recover.
Commenters on a Ridge to Rivers Facebook post about Tucker’s attack said they had also been followed or treated aggressively by coyotes on trails.
A spokesperson for the Boise Department of Parks and Recreation said in an email Monday that a coyote and her pups have been spotted numerous times at Hulls Gulch this spring, though it wasn’t clear whether that coyote was involved in one or both of the weekend attacks.
Parks and Rec director Doug Holloway said the incidents seem to be isolated to the area around Hulls Gulch and Military Reserve.
“We will be installing some warning signs ASAP and have notified Fish and Game to put next steps in motion,” Holloway wrote in an email to the Statesman. “What those next steps are will be determined by (Fish and Game) based on our concerns for the safety of our users and their pets.”
Parks and Rec already has signs at several trailheads, including Lower Hulls Gulch, warning users of coyote sightings, the agency’s spokesperson said.
In an email, Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesperson Roger Phillips said the agency is “monitoring the situation and recommending that people avoid walking their dogs in that Lower Hulls Gulch area,” particulary off-leash.
“People also need to understand that a leash is no guarantee a coyote with pups nearby won’t attack if it feels its litter is threatened,” Phillips wrote. “The best course of action to protect pets and wildlife is simply avoid the area for a while and go someplace else.”
Second dog bitten, injured prior to fatal attack
The day before Shelton’s dog Tucker was attacked, another Boise woman’s dog nearly met the same fate. Jade Printz said her dad, Larry, was hiking on the Lower Hulls Gulch Trail with Printz’s dog, named Josie, on Saturday afternoon when he heard Josie yelp from 10 to 20 feet behind him. She was being attacked by a coyote.
Printz said her dad tried to scare the coyote away and was assisted by a cyclist. Josie, a 55-pound border collie-greyhound mix, managed to get away, but Printz had to take the dog to vet for a series of wounds on her hind end.
At the vet’s office, Josie’s fur was shaved down and a gash and puncture wounds on her rear leg were cleaned up.
The dog was given a rabies vaccine booster and antibiotics. Printz said that on Monday, Josie was stiff and sore but recovering well.
“It’s their nature to defend their young, and I can respect and understand that, absolutely, but it was definitely scary,” Printz said.
A lifelong Boisean, Printz said she’d taken Josie on the same trail and many others for years without any encounters with coyotes.
“You know they’re there, but you don’t necessarily see them,” Printz said in a phone interview.
Shelton also said she had never seen a coyote on Boise trails before and didn’t notice that one was near during her Sunday hike. She said Tucker, who was off-leash, was close to her on the trail.
Josie was also on the trail, Printz said.
Both women said they worry it could’ve been a child getting attacked, and they expressed concern with the boldness of the coyote’s behavior.
“That’s really brave of a wild animal to come up and start snatching and attacking dogs,” Shelton said.
Shelton acknowledged that the area is home to wildlife but said she would like to see the animal involved in Tucker’s death relocated away from the Hulls Gulch area. Printz agreed.
“It sounds like it’s possibly the same coyote ... so I think it would be best if that coyote were able to be relocated,” Printz said. “It’s concerning now that there’s been two dog attacks within the same weekend in that exact area.”
Shelton and Printz said they hope their experiences will serve as a warning for other trail users, particularly those with dogs. Both women said the attacks made them hesitant to return to the trails.
Shelton said hiking was an activity she shared with Tucker two or three times each week. She said when she does resume hiking, it will probably be in a different location.