Backyard visitors just 'looking for company'

Freddy Cummins recounts her visit from a pair of coyotes

Posted: Friday, January 08, 2010

When Juneau resident Freddy Cummins looked out her windows on the morning of Dec. 30, she wasn't sure what she saw.

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Photo Courtesy Of Freddy Cummins
Photo Courtesy Of Freddy Cummins

"I was going to give something to our dog, who was in the yard, and saw, what I thought was two other dogs," she said. "But I wasn't' sure, so I went to get my glasses and when I came back, they were gone."

Cummins, who lives tucked against the mountainside near Tee Harbor around mile 18 of Glacier Highway, said she had a hunch the dog-like animals were not of the domestic variety. She decided to bring Lena, their 4 ½ year-old golden retriever, inside.

She didn't see the "dogs" again until she let Lena back out. It was when both animals returned a second time that Cummins suspected they were coyotes. It was a hunch later confirmed by her neighbor and Alaska Department of Fish and Game employee Kirt Kondzela, who identified the pair based on Cummins' photos.

While coyote sightings in the Juneau area are rare, they are not unheard of. And according to Cummins, this pair seemed quite at home.

"It was interesting, three times I noticed them," she said. "One time one of the them took a tennis ball and took it into the woods. We also have this little glow in the dark ball that one started to play with."

At one point, Cummins said she stepped out onto her deck to get a photograph of the coyotes. Neither seemed afraid or skittish, she said.

The only bit of discomfort came when one of the coyotes began approaching Lena. Cummins said at first the encounter seemed innocent, and the animal coy. But then the coyote barred it's teeth and crouched toward the retriever.

"I thought, 'Oh my goodness, I've got to get her in here,'" Cummins said.

Interaction between dogs and coyotes has shown to have mixed results, according to an article on the Department of Environmental Conservation Web site, which states that many confrontations are about territory. Owners of large-sized dogs (over 35 pounds) probably don't have much to worry about, as a coyote will not often attack a larger animal. Cat and small dog owners, however, should be more cautious. Coyotes may view smaller pets as prey.

But Cummins was not concerned and the coyotes came and went.

"(They) just seemed to be looking for company," she said.

That's the last she's seen of the pair.

"We have not seen them since. Sometime last summer we heard a yelping up on the ridge, but we never knew what made it," she said.

Cummins said she now has a good guess what was making the noise.

• Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell at or 523-2271.

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