Donna Willingham can’t forget the day she lost her dog, Lucky.“I was working from home that day and I had let her out,” said Willingham, who lives in the Shannon Creek neighborhood across from Willie Pigg Auditorium off Walnut Creek Drive. “I got a phone call from our neighbor saying they could not locate their dog. Our neighbor looked over and saw Lucky lying in our vegetable garden with lacerations to her neck and head.“I still get chills,” she said.Lucky was still breathing, Willingham said, but even though she rushed her to the veterinarian, the 13-year-old rat terrier died. Her neighbor’s toy chihuahua was never found, she said. “(Lucky) had gotten mauled by a wild animal, they couldn’t identify if it was a bobcat or a coyote,” she said.Bobcats and coyotes are nothing new for Mansfield, said animal control manager Lori Rodriguez.“They’ve both been here forever,” Rodriguez said. “They never left. Wildlife is here, not just the bobcats and coyotes, there’s possums, raccoons, skunks and squirrels. ”The coyotes became such a problem in Mansfield last year that the city hired Adam Henry, an urban wildlife damage management biologist, to trap and euthanize the animals, which cannot legally be relocated. Henry, who trapped eight coyotes last year, has bagged four more this year after complaints of the animals killing pets.“There were a few attacks in a neighborhood before we could trap them,” he said. “One of the dogs died and the other one was in the hospital.”Wild animals do “very well in residential areas,” Henry said. “You have five miles of linear park that runs right through the middle of Mansfield. You have to keep it in perspective.”Henry said he hasn’t trapped any bobcats in Mansfield yet, but he did get one on the Arlington/Mansfield border that had been killing a resident’s chickens.“They had chickens and he was coming in and getting dinner every night,” he said.Steven Nelson, who lives on Carlin Road off Cannon Drive, knows there are bobcats in Mansfield. He and his dogs, Chloe and Jack, saw two last week just outside their chainlink fence. Nelson even got a photo.“There’s a big pile of brush there and they were crawling all over it,” Nelson said. “I’ve seen rabbits crawling all out of it, so I’m sure that’s what they were looking for. They didn’t appear to pay any attention to (the dogs). I was concerned. I watched to make sure they didn’t walk toward the fence and the dogs.”Nelson has seen coyotes on his property and even taken video of them running up and down his fence line with his schnauzers on the other side. In the 20-plus years that he has lived on the property, though, he has never had any problems with the neighboring wildlife, except for an incident in February.“Both dogs came in whimpering and crying,” he said. “We started loving on them and noticed our hands were wet. We turned on the lights and they were covered with blood, so we had trip to the vet’s. I have a suspicion that it was coyotes. Something fairly large got them. There were tooth marks on both of Jack’s shoulders. We called animal control and they set live traps, but didn’t catch them.”Everyone who sees or comes into contact with a coyote or bobcat should report it to Mansfield’s animal control, Henry said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean the city is going to react to a coyote walking down a road, but they will chart it,” he said. “If we get a whole bunch of reports, we will check into it. If we get a report of an attack on a secure yard, they are going to respond.”If more people would haze the animals when they see them -- throw rocks or yell -- and clean brush off their property, there would be fewer incidents, Rodriguez said. She also advises checking fence lines, not leaving pet food outside and not letting animals use the bathroom in the front yard.
Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451 Twitter: @AmandaRogersNM