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After coyote stalks dogs in Minn. park, officer shoots at animal

A coyote in St. Paul's Hidden Falls Regional Park went after one dog and was tracking another before a police officer shot at it on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. (Courtesy of D'Aquila family)1 / 2
A coyote was undeterred and came as close as 10 feet from this dog Ollie and owner Mark Bahn in St. Paul’s Hidden Falls Regional Park on Saturday. Submitted photo2 / 2

ST. PAUL—As soon as a St. Paul man realized the animal stalking him and his puppy was a coyote, he yelled, "Go away!"

But the coyote was undeterred and came nearer, eventually as close as 10 feet from them in St. Paul's Hidden Falls Regional Park. The coyote's head was down and it was half circling them, said Mark Bahn.

"I was thinking, 'I'm going to have to defend myself from a coyote, for goodness' sake,'" Bahn said Tuesday.

He and his dog were able to get to safety Saturday, but the coyote soon also tracked another man and his dog in the park, which is by the Mississippi River. A police officer ended up shooting at the coyote.

The coyote ran away and an officer discovered a small amount of blood afterward, but not the animal.

Coyotes are found throughout the state and their population in the Twin Cities metro area is "very healthy" and has been increasing for the last decade, said Scott Noland, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Forest Lake area wildlife manager.

The DNR hears about two to three cases each year of a coyote attacking a dog in the metro area, but "it's not the norm" and some of the coyote's behavior that was described in St. Paul over the weekend was unusual, Noland said.

Police were called to the park on Saturday just after 10 a.m.

Bahn, who lives in Highland Park, said he enjoys taking his 8-month-old "goldendoodle" to the park. They were running around and playing on Saturday morning when Bahn saw an animal by the pavilion.

Bahn thought it was a dog, but quickly realized no one was with the animal and it didn't have a collar. He had seen posts on Nextdoor, an online neighborhood network, about people spotting coyotes by the Hidden Falls entrance or howling in the park, and he realized, "Oh, my goodness, it's a coyote!"

Bahn's dog Ollie weighs 50 to 55 pounds, and the coyote was bigger. Though Bahn yelled at the coyote — which is something the DNR recommends if a coyote approaches — the animal instead continued closer.

There was no one else around and the coyote then "was aggressively coming toward me," so Bahn hatched a plan — he and Ollie would run and hide in a portable toilet in the parking lot.

Just then, a car was leaving the park and Bahn flagged down the driver, telling him a coyote was chasing them. He let Bahn and Ollie into his car and drove them up the hill. Bahn called 911 because he was worried about the safety of other people in the area.

Jim D'Aquila also encountered the coyote at Hidden Falls Park on Saturday morning. He was walking his 45-pound dog — Bravo is a Brittany breed — when he came across a "coyote right in his path," said Bonnie D'Aquila, Jim's wife. "He said the animal wasn't very shy. He had to really go up to it to get it to go away." He was able to get a fairly close photo of the coyote.

He walked in the opposite direction and, not long after, ran into an officer who told him the coyote had been pursuing another dog and was tracking him and Bravo.

The coyote began closing in on D'Aquila and his dog and "appeared fixated on the dog," said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a St. Paul police spokesman. He added that the officer made sure it was safe to shoot at the coyote before doing so. It's not known what happened to the coyote after it ran away.

Dogs are not typical food sources for coyotes, Noland said. Still, people having supervision over their dogs is usually enough to keep coyotes away, he said.

The DNR recommends not leaving small pets unattended in a yard, making sure there are no potential food sources in the yard (such as bird food, dog food or garbage), and keeping dogs on leashes when walking them. If encountered, coyotes usually run away if shouted at or if loud noises are made, Noland said.