Gordon Clement knows the killers are out there, waiting. They’ve taken one life; given the chance, they’ll take another.
On Thursday, the Alpharetta resident’s wife discovered the bleeding, broken body of Charro, one of two goats living in a quarter-acre enclosure behind their home. The attackers had jumped a 5-foot fence. By the time Lynda Clement found its body, white fur splashed with red, Charro was dead.
With that attack, the Clements joined a growing number of metro Atlantans who have learned how closely they live beside an unwanted neighbor, Canis latrans. You know it by a more common name, coyote.
“I’ve lived in Alpharetta for more than 20 years,” Clement, 83, said Friday. “I’ve never seen one — wouldn’t know what they look like if I saw one.”
Coyotes like it that way. The animals are primarily nocturnal, quiet and fast. They’ll eat just about anything – rodents, birds, frogs and, increasingly, pets. The Clements’ goat had been partially eaten.
Biologists theorize coyotes came here from the American West. Here, they’re thrived in vacant fields, forests and any other spot that offers cover. The state Department of Natural Resources says they live in every county in Georgia.
The state agency does not keep track of how many coyote calls it gets annually, but “that species is our No. 1 call generator,” said DNR biologist Don McGowan.
A No. 1 nuisance, too. Earlier this year, the Tybee Island City Council authorized the town’s police chief to trap coyotes. In Decatur, the question of whether to kill coyotes or coexist with them defies an easy answer. Neighborhood associations across the metro area hire trappers to keep coyote populations in check, but it’s only a temporary measure: the animals keep coming back.
Expect more in a few weeks, too. Coyotes breed in February and March. By April, mature females will be suckling pups while their mates look for food.
Coyotes prefer smaller prey. The Clements’ goat weighed 90 pounds, which indicates more than one animal made the kill.
“That’s not out of the question,” McGowan said. “They’ve been known to hunt cooperatively.”
McGowan’s best advice: Keep an eye on your pets. Build a bigger fence, or — better yet — get a large guard dog. Coyotes don’t respect property lines.
Clement learned that the hard way. Charro was a pet, a family member. Ask her to shake, and she’d lift a shaggy hoof to your hand.
“Oh, this has been awful, terrible,” said Clements, whose other goat, Chivo, was in a barn when the attack happened. “I never thought this would affect me as much as it has.”