By Richard L. Gaw
The animal that has been spotted in Kennett Township in the Greenwood Road, Longwood Road and Millbrook Drive vicinity may be an Eastern Coyote -- as it has been identified by the township police -- or it just may be a lost dog from the neighborhood.
Beginning on June 3, the township's police department got reports of a coyote wandering in the eastern and southeastern regions of the township. The coyote, the reports said, appears to be the size of a large German Shepherd, and it has been seen in the early morning and daytime hours.
Soon after these sightings were reported in the June 11 edition of the Chester County Press, the newspaper began receiving e-mail messages from Nancy Gwinner, a resident of East Marlborough Township, who suspects that these sightings can be traced to her dog, Holly, who got loose on Jan. 8, 2014. Gwinner's home is about a quarter-mile from Longwood Road.
The similarities between her 14-year-old German Shepard/Husky mix and an Eastern Coyote, Gwinner said, are nearly identical. Like an Eastern Coyote, Holly is 18 inches at the shoulder, and is about 45 pounds, generally the same height and weight of an Eastern Coyote. Gwinner said that her dog was not wearing a collar at the time of her disappearance.
“I have traveled extensively in the West, where coyotes are very prevalent, and they look like dogs,” Gwinner said. “I look at Holly and I think she can easily pass for a coyote.”
Although Holly has not returned to her home, Gwinner has reason to believe that she is wandering in the vicinity of the Harvest Fresh Mushroom Farm on North Walnut Road in Kennett Square. She has received reports from farm employees that the dog has visited the farm several times in the last few weeks. Two weeks ago, employees attempted to catch the animal, but it eluded them.
Gwinner, who owns four other dogs, said that if the dog being spotted at the farm is Holly, she has not been able to find her way home because of the time of her disappearance – the dead of a particularly harsh winter.
“The cold weather deadened her sense of smell,” Gwinner said. “Eighteen hours after a dog disappears, nothing is familiar to them. Everything is about survival. They're frightened and fending for their lives, and the more they are away, the less likely they are to recognize their owner.”
Soon after the dog disappeared, Gwinner thought that it may have wandered off to die. “But she wasn't sick,” she said. “People have told me that she may have died from the cold, but we're talking about a dog that is part Husky.”
Although Gwinner has contacted local police departments and nearby Longwood Gardens – where trail cameras have been placed in the vicinity – she said her suspicion is just a hunch, and that area residents should not under any circumstances feel free to approach the animal believing it is her dog. In recent years, the Game Commission has received increasing reports of the damage that Eastern Coyotes have caused -- mostly destroying garbage receptacles and attacking smaller wild animals or household pets that are left outdoors. Although the animal is not likely to attack humans, one man was attacked by a group of coyotes in Dauphin County in the 1990s and sustained several flesh wounds.
Officer Lydell Nolt of the Kennett Township Police Department strongly advises that if a resident spots an animal resembling a coyote, to leave it alone and not feed it. Nolt recommends that residents should contact either the Township Police at 610-388-2874, or the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Southeastern office at 610-926-3136.