“We’re infected with coyotes!”

That’s Charles Davis’ thinking and most Tateville residents agree. It’s all the talk at Davis Grocery.

Howling coyotes have turned nights in this southern Pulaski County community into an eerie reflection of a Western campfire. Some call it scary, especially when the moan of a freight train’s whistle tails off weirdly with ominous cries.

Coyotes are intruders. Seemingly there’s no place for such an animal in these parts. Coyotes are supposed to be in Western movies; their nocturnal call shivering lonely cowboys beneath a blanket of stars.

Not anymore. The wily wolf-like creatures have spread from their Home on the Range to seek comforts of a modern society.

“They’re deafening,” said Davis, alluding to the haunting howls shattering the still of the night. Coyotes seem to react to only a certain type of whistle tone, mostly from northbound freights. Southbound freights are ignored; nobody knows why.

Howling could be endured if coyotes, sometimes called prairie wolves, were friendly. But there’s stark evidence to the contrary.

Pets are being intimidated and killed. There is concern about small children playing outside. To the untrained eye, a coyote could be mistaken for a wolf. It’s wild like a wolf. It is a wolf of sorts.

Mainly it’s mystical. The call of a coyote is an unsettling sound. It’s not heard in day; only during the uncertainty of darkness.

Donna Morrow, longtime employee of Davis Grocery, shows a photograph of “Dakota,” her Pekingese dog, the most recent victim of coyotes.

“He was totally a house dog,” said Morrow. “I let him out Sunday morning. It wasn’t hardly daylight.”

Morrow, daughter of the late Sam Davis, founder of Davis Grocery, said her dog normally does its business and comes to the door and barks to be let back in.

“About the time I let him out a train went by and the coyotes started howling,” Morrow related. “I hollered and the howling stopped.”

“Then I heard two little yelps. I knew they had him,” she related, almost tearfully. Dakota, 8 years old, had been her precious pet since a small puppy.

Morrow said she wouldn’t go look but someone who saw the dog’s carcass told her its head was mangled.

Jim Hungler of Sloans Valley almost lost his Jack Russell terrier.

“A coyote was chasing the dog along old 27 (Loop 3) over in Minton Hollow,” said Hungler. “A neighbor saw the coyote chasing my dog and shot, grazing the coyote’s hind quarters. They had my dog penned. If he hadn’t shot, my dog would have been killed.”

A boxer, owned by a family near Garland Bend, reportedly was attacked and mangled by coyotes.

“It happened about a half mile past the bridge toward Garland Bend,” said Morrow. The dog eventually recovered from its wounds.

Phyllis Jones said coyotes are close by her place.

“They are in behind my house all the time,” said Jones. She told about another dog in the neighborhood that has been killed by coyotes.

Sue Davis, wife of the Sam Davis, said she has seen coyotes walk right beside Davis Grocery, a landmark along busy U.S. 27.

Tateville residents are perplexed. They don’t have an answer to the coyote problem.

“I’ve got two little grandchildren. I’m afraid to let them out,” said Charles Davis.

Hungler believes a bounty should be put on coyotes to encourage eradication. However, studies have indicated the bounty systems yield little success.

Coyotes are not protected in Kentucky and may be taken year-round by hunting or with traps or non-locking snares during the furbearer trapping season. Coyotes may be hunted only during daylight hours.

During the last 30 years, coyotes have spread throughout the eastern United States from the animals’ historic range in the plains and mountains of western North America. The mournful howl of a coyote is part of cowboys’ legend.

This newspaper, about a quarter of a century ago, published a story about a coyote killed in the Plato community in northeastern Pulaski County. That was the first reported coyote in this area.

Since then, coyotes have spread rapidly, sometimes inhabiting urban areas. A few years ago, a family of coyotes was reported on Hail Knob in the western part of Somerset. The animals were spotted at night foraging around garbage cans.

A typical adult coyote weighs between 29 and 33 pounds, but some can be larger. The animals have a slender snout, erect ears and a bottle-shaped tail carried at a downward angle.

Generally, a coyote has a light gray coat with lighter underparts. However, the color may vary from buff yellow to reddish yellow or black.

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