Residents at The Villages tell ABC7 News, the aggressive animals are attacking, and in some cases, killing dogs.
"This coyote came out of nowhere," Diana Holcomb explained. "We were ambushed."
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"Ambushed and terrorized" is how Holcomb is describing the recent coyote attack on her dog, Bunny. In May, the maltipoo was picked up and killed by a coyote, with Holcomb still holding on to Bunny's short leash.
"Picked her up and broke her neck, and punctured her. She was screaming, I was screaming- trying to get her pulled up into my arms," Holcomb shared.
"She was already dead. She was dead instantly," she told ABC7 News.
Residents say this isn't the first time a dog was killed. Resident Cheryl Genovesi recalled at least seven injuries to pets and 14 that ended up dying due to coyote attacks in the last 15 months.
VIDEO: SJ residents share frightening stories of 'coyote crisis' after several dogs, cats attacked
In that time, neighbors living within the community say they've been living a nightmare. They've had to arm themselves during walks, with weapons, bear spray and even body armor for their pets.
"Even if I had the bear spray with me- because I was just taking her out for a second- I couldn't have pulled it out fast enough," Holcomb added. "Because it was there, and it was on her in seconds."
Off camera, The Villages general manager Tim Sutherland called this an "on-going co-existence battle."
He acknowledged the animals have lost their fear of humans. He shared the community's educational approach which includes ways residents can eliminate food sources.
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Sutherland emphasized he is not blaming the residents, calling the death of any pet shocking, scary and horrifying.
In a document shared by Sutherland, ways to eliminate food sources list:
- Stop feeding ducks & geese at lakes and golf course
- No pet food outdoors
- No bird feed on the ground
- Pick up dropped fruits & vegetables
"I don't think there's enough bird feeders to attract all the coyotes that we're dealing with now," resident Nelson Frick told ABC7 News.
Frick and his wife also lost their dog, Clyde, to a coyote last May.
"We didn't see it, but I found the carcass later," he shared. "Which is not exactly a nice thing to do either."
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He said efforts to protect his other dog, Bonnie, have landed him in the hospital. Now, the Frick's don't take Bonnie on walks.
"We don't walk. The dog would love to be out in the front grass," he described. "And every time we open the front door she runs to the door. But we can't let her out because he could be hiding in the bushes."
On two occasions, Frick said he charged at the coyotes and ended up tripping.
"I got it off into the bushes, but fell doing it," he said. Frick suffered soft flesh injuries in both hands and sustained injuries to his face.
Now, he and others fear for the older population who may be unable to defend themselves from these aggressive coyotes.
"They've developed a technique, a hunting process that is injuring our animals and perhaps pursuing some of our citizens," Frick added.
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As it stands, Santa Clara County agencies do not have the authority to reduce the coyote population.
ABC7 News reached out to Vector Control. The agency said it's aware of the issue- one that has been elevated to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). However, CDFW did not respond to requests for comment.
Residents shared a letter by Senator Dave Cortese, addressing the coyote crisis.
He wrote, "My office has been in regular contact with CDFW and have been informed that the regional wildlife staff confirmed that, though the situation remains concerning, their assessment is that, at this time, it has not risen to a level that would warrant a public safety coyote response by CDFW."
"The law does not allow the coyotes to be trapped and relocated. If the coyotes are trapped, they must be euthanized. The Villages Golf & Country Club is private property and, thus, the decision as to whether to trap the coyotes remains with The Villages Homeowners Association; we do not have the power to direct them to do so."
ABC7 News reached out to Sen. Cortese's office. A statement from his office read:
"Our Department of Fish and Wildlife has been working closely with The Villages management and staff over the past several months to monitor this situation and administer the best course of action. My Office is also in regular communication with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and The Villages to serve as a resource and evaluate what can potentially be done on the legislative level to help to reduce these types of conflicts with coyotes in our community."
Residents maintain more must be done to protect people and pets.