BELTON — Nichole Vernon said she believes her dog, Baby, might have been taken by a hungry coyote early Tuesday from her fenced-in backyard.
Baby was a Pomeranian that was in the backyard inside a chain-link fence.
About 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, Vernon and her mother heard what Vernon described as a “horrible, gut-wrenching sound.”
The two women rushed outside their Belton home in the 500 block of East 25th Street, but Baby wasn’t there. They searched for her for more than an hour. Her mother looked for an hour later that morning and so did Vernon, but they didn’t find Baby.
The now abandoned Leon Valley Golf Course in her neighborhood may be where the coyote and other animals are living, Vernon said.
The abandoned course is overgrown and needs to be cleaned up, Vernon said.
Some of Vernon’s friends have seen and heard coyotes in the area, she said.
Billy Smitha’s house in the 1000 block of Estates Drive backs onto the abandoned course.
He said his cat is missing, although he can’t say for sure it was taken by a coyote. But with the adjoining area overgrown with trees, grass and weeds, Smitha said all kinds of animals live there and people can’t go walking through it.
“It’s dangerous in there. There’s a herd of deer, snakes, raccoons, coyotes and other animals living in there. I can quite frequently hear the coyotes howling at night,” Smitha said. “They sound close.”
Belton Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Hamilton said the department hasn’t received any reports of animals taken by coyotes, but she said the old golf course area is heavily wooded.
“I think this (missing animals taken by coyotes) happens more often than anyone knows,” Vernon said. “Animals go missing, but people may not report them. People in the area need to know about this so they can keep an eye on their pets.”
Temple residents, as well as people in all urban areas, lose pets to coyotes, said Walter Hetzel, a Temple Animal Control officer.
“They have been reported all over the city, including in the downtown areas. They are routinely spotted in all urban areas over the U.S.,” Hetzel said.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife website describes the opportunistic nature of a coyote and its ability to survive in a “rapidly changing environment.”
“A coyote is primarily nocturnal and very opportunistic. Coyotes will eat just about anything. They feed primarily on rabbits, rodents and insects, but they also eat carrion, lizards, snakes, fruit, vegetable matter and even fish,” according to the website.