Colorado Cops Taking on Coyotes With Paintballs

Colo. Towns hope paintball hazing will keep coyotes away from people and pets.

ByABC News
May 6, 2009, 12:10 PM

May 7, 2009— -- If everything goes according to plan, a Denver suburb will soon have a lot more coyotes running around with pink paint splotches on their fur.

The Greenwood Village Police Department armed its officers with paintball guns earlier this month in hopes of humanely scaring coyotes away from its parks and residential neighborhoods.

The cops began hunting the coyotes because the wily critters have been prowling the town's parks and backyards with increasing frequency.

"The city of Greenwood Village has dealt with coyotes for years," Police Lt. Joe Harvey told "It"s never been as bad as it is now."

They've only had one attack on a person, a 14-year-old boy who was jumped by a coyote in a town park last December. The boy instinctively crouched down and threw his arm up in front of his face.

"The coyote bounced off his arm and kind of yelped and ran away," Harvey said, adding that the teen was not injured.

The area's coyotes have becoming increasingly bold in snatching up rabbits as well as pets.

One resident, Harvey said, reported having his shih tzu grabbed by a coyote off the back porch. Police found 30 dog and cat collars in one coyote den alone.

They've also become increasingly drawn to bird feeders and fruit trees, and every encounter makes them less fearful of the people who are inadvertently supplying their food source.

After the attack on the teenager, the city hired someone for about $20,000 to map out dens in the area and shoot to kill if he saw a coyote. The contractor, Harvey said, did kill one coyote in the park where the boy was attacked, but the town was soon met with an outcry from animal rights enthusiasts.

And, he said, there was no way to tell if the dead coyote was the same one that attacked the teen.

So Greenwood Village police borrowed an idea from nearby Lakewood. They bought paintball guns and used paintballs they already had in stock for training purposes in hopes of teaching coyotes to be more fearful of humans. But officers will, he said, still shoot to kill if they feel there's a direct threat.

For the last several days, two officers armed with paintball guns have been walking area parks. They've taken six shots and hit two coyotes, Harvey said.

"In both instances, the coyotes yelped and ran away," he said, adding that the pellets should "sting" the coyotes, but not maim them.

"If the human body can take it, there's no doubt a coyote with a lot of fur can take it," he said.