Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
BELLE CHASSE, La. -- People who live in Plaquemines Parish are reporting sightings of more and more coyotes in their neighborhoods.
The parish is now warning residents to keep a close eye on their pets, as coyotes are suspected of killing several small dogs recently.
One of those pets belonged to Dan Musmanno.
'We lived here since '97,' he said. 'Never had a concern in Plaquemines Parish.'
That all changed recently, when one of the Musmanno family dogs, a Bichon Frise named Beignet, disappeared when his wife let the dogs out.
'She stopped because the cat wanted to get out, and so she pushed the cat back momentarily and when she came back outside, called [the dogs],' Musmanno said. 'And the female dog came up, but she called the male dog, Beignet. He didn't return.'
Family members searched for three days, but to no avail-- Beignet vanished. Musmanno then began seeing coyotes along the river levee in his backyard during the day.
'When [the river] started coming up, that's when we saw them on the levee, 8:30, 9:30 in the morning,' he said.
It is a similar tale for Gay Jourdan, whose dog, Raisin, also disappeared quickly, after she let her outside several months ago.
'She went up front and we heard, 'Er! Er!,'' Jourdan said. 'Then there was no dog. Nothing.'
Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said the high river levels are flooding the bature side of the levees, where the coyotes usually roam.
'Well, they can't live there anymore. So, they've been forced over the levee into people's backyards, into the neighborhoods,' Nungesser said. 'The coyotes have gotten real brave around homes, and in the last week, two or three dogs have disappeared.'
The parish has now laid out 20 traps, from Belle Chasse to Jesuit Bend to Port Sulphur. They have captured four coyotes so far, but the parish is now asking for additional help.
'We're reaching out to other communities, even other states, to see if there is someone who specializes in trapping the coyotes,' Nungesser said.
While the river may be making things worse, the problem with nuisance coyotes in Plaquemines began a few years ago. Parish leaders point to a shrinking habitat, due to coastal erosion and hurricane land loss.
For pet owners like Musmanno and Jourdan, loss is something they now understand all too well.
'Very tough. Yeah, tough,' Musmanno said, about how his family was affected by the loss of Beignet.
In addition to the four coyotes that were trapped, the parish has found another 10 dead along Highway 23. To report any coyote sightings in the parish, call the Plaquemines Animal Control Department at (504) 394-3510.