A Salt Lake City woman hiking an Ensign Peak trail said she watched in horror as her Jack Russell terrier was snatched by a coyote and dragged away early Friday morning.
"I hike Ensign Peak all the time and never had any problems," said Teri Mallard. "Today it was fatal."
Mallard, 51, and her dog Scout were hiking about 7:30 a.m., on the ridge line east of the peak when the coyote charged out from behind a scrub oak and grabbed the 16-pound dog. Scout, who had been about 20 yards ahead, gave a yelp as she was grabbed and carted off in the coyote's mouth, Mallard said.
"I just took of running after it," said Mallard, who lives north of the Utah State Capitol and hikes the trail several times weekly. "I was yelling her name and running. I didn't think about being afraid."
After giving chase for a distance, Mallard called her husband, Michael, for help. They trekked through the snow for about 30 minutes before heading home to retrieve warmer clothing and weapons.
Mallard said she did not call state wildlife officials or any other authorities to report the incident.
But armed with a gun, a knife and pepper spray, the couple went back up the mountain, tracking the coyote's paw prints in the snow for several hours and over more than one peak, Mallard said.
"We finally saw blood and we knew she was gone," Mallard says, her voice breaking.
They also caught a glimpse of the coyote at around 1 p.m., but it sprinted away after spying the couple, Mallard said. Scout's buried body was found in a cluster of oaks nearby.
"I started crying," Mallard said. "She's been my companion for 13 years."
Michael Mallard retrieved the tiny hand-knit sweater Scout had been wearing from the dog's body and the couple offered up a prayer before heading for home. They left Scout on the mountain, Teri Mallard said.
"I am shocked that this happened," she said. "I go to remote areas all the time. I've never had a problem and that dog has been with me everywhere. But right in my backyard? Now, I'm scared."
Coyotes are common in Utah and can be found in desert and mountain habitats, on rangeland and in urban settings, according to information on the state's Division of Wildlife Services web site. The animals are not protected and it is legal to shoot or trap them "at any time, anywhere, and for any reason," as long as other laws are not broken, according to the site.
Coyotes are not typically dangerous to people, but in some situations pets maybe become prey for the animals, state wildlife officials say.
The Mallards have lived in the area since summer and had heard coyotes howling in the hills on previous hikes. But Teri Mallard said she wasn't prepared to have one swoop in and take her dog. Now she said she believes something should be done to protect citizens and their pets.
"There are lots of predators up in our mountains. If they are getting so used to us that they are not even scared of us, that's a problem," said Mallard. "To me, that coyotes is a dangerous animal. What's it going to do next, grab a child?"