ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A Rockford couple is devastated after losing their pet Maltese to a coyote attack in their front yard.

“That wasn’t any way we expected her last moments to be. It’s just something I never want anyone to go through. It was horrible, like a horror movie. It was awful,” said Jacqueline King, who experienced something she says no pet owner ever wants to witness.

Last Saturday, around 10:30 p.m., she let her 15-year-old Maltese dog, Charlie, out in the front yard of the home she shares with her husband, Mitch, in the Shaw Woods neighborhood.

“She was just on the edge of the grass an sidewalk. Out of nowhere, a coyote was on her,” King said. “I screamed and ran towards it and it ran off real quickly.”

In a matter of minutes, the coyote had fatally injured Charlie.

“She had some pretty severe injuries. I believe her lung was punctured and some broken ribs, and being that she was 15 already and elderly, [the veterinarian] didn’t think she would survive that, due to infection. So, we had to make the decision to euthanize her.”

Amber Pinnon, from Winnebago County Animal Services, says although they have not seen an increase in coyote-related calls, she says it is important for residents to remain vigilant.

“Making sure you’re being aware of your surroundings and things are well lit when you have animals outside,” are methods Pinnon recommends to keep pets safe from the predatory animals.

The Kings made a memorial in their yard in memory of Charlie.

“The comfort, to both of us, was that the coyote didn’t win. It didn’t take her away. So, we were able to have Charlie with us when she passed. I have her ashes now and she’s back home with us, just in a different way,” King said.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources advises the following when dealing with coyotes in an urban environment:

  • What safety precautions should people take if they see coyotes in their neighborhood?
  • Seeing a coyote in your neighborhood does not necessarily make it a problem animal
  • Determine if the coyote(s) is/are being aggressive and exhibiting *problem behaviors:
  • Frequently seen during daylight hours and approaching people with little fear
  • Stalking behaviors/following people or pets
  • Approaching people aggressively, growling or barking when hazed
  • Most nuisance/problem coyotes are being fed (directly or indirectly)
  • Feeding coyotes can cause them to lose their fear of humans and associate people with food, emboldening them
  • Identify food sources in areas where coyotes are observed and remove them
  • Work with municipal officials to enforce feeding bans and remove food sources
    • Inform city officials of problem animals(s) and raise neighborhood awareness
    • Use ‘negative stimuli’ (e.g. yelling, waving arms, walking stick or throwing rocks)
    • Consider removal program for problem animals in conjunction with education and elimination of food/feeding
  • Do not run away from coyotes, stand your ground and back away slowly if confronted
  • Be aware of the season and how it may affect coyote behavior
  • Aggressive behaviors and negative encounters between coyotes and domestic dogs are more common in the breeding season (Feb – March) and when raising pups (June – Aug)
  • Coyotes that are in poor condition from disease or injury may act more aggressively than healthy/normal coyotes
  • Females with pups may be aggressive if you or your dog get ‘too close’ to them