A Waxahachie couple is mourning the death of their beloved dog after a coyote grabbed the small canine from their front yard on West Jefferson Street.

“Around 8:30 p.m., on Saturday night, a coyote killed our little dog,” Johnie Barefield said. “We think the general public should be made aware.”

Barefield lives with his wife, Janet, at 716 W. Jefferson St.

“We live a block or so from the cemetery and I’m pretty sure they live in that area,” Barefield said. “We saw the coyote and saw it was a good size (from) 2- to 3-foot tall. We went looking for our baby and we found the coyote with our dog in its mouth. Once we shined our headlights on it, the coyote dropped our dog and took off.”

Barefield said he contacted Waxahachie police, who came and filed a report Saturday night.

“We called the police and they said that animal control will not respond after hours,” Barefield said. “But after hours is when the coyotes are out roaming. She was my constant companion and I can hardly talk about it without getting choked up. We let her out in the front yard to use the bathroom. We let her out for three minutes or so and when we looked out there and she was gone. She never leaves the front yard so it had to have come in the yard and grab her.”

Cindi Walters, senior officer for animal control, said she was made aware of the incident on Saturday night.

“Over the weekends and in the evenings, the police department serves as animal control up until certain things happen,” said Sonny Wilson, director of health. “If an injured animal is hit by a car, the officer may call animal control to help take care of things. There’s a certain response protocol we follow after normal hours.”

Wilson said that while he had not yet seen the report, the incident did not surprise him.

“We’ve seen coyotes in that area,” Wilson said. “As a matter of fact we trapped one in the area over near Grand Avenue. There’s a wooded area near Katy Lake that some coyotes roam in, as well as on the west side of town. They will roam into the city during the winter when food is scarce. They’re predators and they’ll look for their next meal.”

Wilson recommended that people should keep small pets pinned up with a light on.

“We had a report last year from out near the lake of a bobcat jumping a chain link fence to grab a small pet,” Wilson said. “But I’ve never heard of coyotes coming after small children or babies. Mountain lions will attack humans but I don’t think that’s a problem we have around our area. Most of the time coyotes simply take advantage of injured or small prey. I’ve never heard of one attacking a human.”

Wilson said that despite the threat of coyotes, he was personally more concerned about dogs within the city limits.

“What concerns us more are dogs like pit bulls,” Wilson said. “They have us concerned and we have several in the city. I’d be more concerned about them than coyotes.”

Wilson said it’s also easy to forget about the threat from coyotes while living in the city limits.

“It shouldn’t happen in the city but when there are remote areas within a couple miles from where you live, you should be aware that they will roam,” Wilson said. “If you see one in town during the day time it’s not a good thing. They’re probably sick or rabid because coyotes are typically scared when they’re around people. Be sure and vaccinate your pets and keep their vaccinations current because we have found coyotes with rabies within the last few months.”

Last November, Walters said the animal control department trapped a coyote that was found to be positive for rabies.

“We had gotten a call that a coyote was in a backyard with a homeowner’s dog,” Walters said. “The police were called and checked it out and then lost the coyote in the woods. She called back later and said the coyote was back again and just laying there acting peculiar. We disposed of the animal and sent him to Austin for checking and he came back positive.”

Walters said that as Waxahachie grows, the city would continue to encroach on the hunting grounds of various predators, possibly sending them into the city for meals.

“All the construction that is taking place in the area is taking away their hunting grounds,” Walters said. “So we recommend people don’t leave small animals out at night. Cats and small dogs are easy prey for them. If you spot a coyote or other wild animal contact the police department and let them know. Don’t try to handle the situation on your own. It’s against the law for a citizen to discharge a firearm in the city limits and we don’t recommend it. We recommend residents go back into the house and call the police or animal control.”

And while the coyote spotted by Barefield is still likely roaming the area, Barefield and his wife are struggling to deal with their loss.

“We’re devastated,” Barefield said. “It’s like taking a child away in our opinion. We plan to type up an information sheet and go around to our neighbors to make sure they’re aware of the problem. Everyone who lives along the area of the creek should be made aware.”

If a coyote or other wild animal is spotted, Walters encourages residents to contact animal control at (972) 937-1802.

E-mail Jonathan at j.blundell@thedailylight.com