‘I’m just playing this in my head over and over’: Pearl resident’s dog killed by coyote

Pepper, a 14-year-old Yorkie mix, was killed recently when she was attacked by a coyote.
Pepper, a 14-year-old Yorkie mix, was killed recently when she was attacked by a coyote.(Krystal Lewis)
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 1:36 PM CDT
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PEARL, Miss. (WLBT) - Victoria Lewis never had second thoughts about letting her dog, Pepper, out in the backyard to sun.

It was something the 14-year-old Shih Tzu-Yorkie mix liked to do, and Lewis thought she would be safe because the yard is fenced in.

But on Thursday, Pepper was attacked and killed when a coyote jumped the wooden privacy fence and mauled her.

“I let her out in the yard and went to my doctor’s appointment, thinking, ‘When I come back, I’m going to let her in,’ because that’s what I usually do,” Lewis said. “I called my dog, and she didn’t answer. She didn’t come to the door and do anything. She [was] in the yard dead.”

No one else was home at the time when the incident occurred, and Lewis’ husband found Pepper’s body after he got home from the store. Security camera footage confirmed the dog’s assailant was a coyote.

“I’m just playing this in my head over and over, what happened to her,” she said. “Because she was such a sweet little dog.”

A screenshot from Lewis' security camera video shows a coyote jumping the fence right before it...
A screenshot from Lewis' security camera video shows a coyote jumping the fence right before it attacks a dog named Pepper.(Katrina Lewis)

Meanwhile, Krystal Lewis, Victoria Lewis’ daughter, is concerned for her children, her neighbors’ children and her neighbor’s pets. In a response to her social media post showing the video, a neighbor from Brandon told Lewis that she had to save her dog from a coyote attack last year.

“Our kids, they ride their bikes throughout the neighborhood and, you know, play with other kids... but a lot of that is going to be limited because of what is going on,” Lewis said. “And it’s sad, because they can’t even enjoy themselves outside in their own neighborhood.”

Ricky Flynt, alligator and nuisance wildlife program coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MWFP), says coyotes rarely attack people, and could only think of one documented attack that occurred years ago in California.

“For the most part, they’re going to avoid humans,” he said. “In more residential areas, they may be a little more tolerant of human activity, but they’re typically not going to approach people.”

Flynt says the animals are known to attack domesticated pets, but those attacks typically occur in more rural settings, and they are also more common among “free-ranging” pets, rather than animals that are behind a fence.

“Usually, some type of barrier, proxy fence or something like that is enough to keep these types of things from happening,” he said.

So why was Pepper attacked? Flynt didn’t know for sure, but says the coyote’s instinct probably kicked in.

“If they’re out searching for food, and they hear or see something on the other side of a fence, depending on the situation, they’ll want to get over [that] fence to get to that food source,” he said.

Coyotes are not endangered species, and the coyote population has been growing in the state since the 1970s. They currently can be found in all 82 counties.

Flynt says the best way to protect a pet from the predator is to keep them in a fenced area and to bring them in at night. He recommends making “very sudden, abrupt noises” to fend off a potential attack.

As for Victoria Lewis she just wishes she would have been home when the incident occurred. While Pepper couldn’t be saved, she and Krystal Lewis hope that by sharing their story other pets in their subdivision can be.

“[There’s] a lot of the homeowners that have small dogs, who bark up and down and they bring them out in the yard,” she said. “My daughter posted that so the subdivision can be aware of what’s happened with us.”

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