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Las Vegas police shoot coyote near school

Las Vegas police officers Tuesday afternoon fatally shot a coyote near an elementary school in a highly populated area.

Police said the shooting happened about 2 p.m. in front of Dailey Elementary School on Reno Avenue, near Tropicana Avenue and Spencer Street. No one was injured.

Officers first located the wild animal running loose in a neighborhood about 12:15 p.m. on Burnham Avenue, which is just east of the school.

Police were initially unclear whether the animal was a coyote or a wolf.

Dailey Elementary was on lockdown as police investigated.

Police spokeswoman Laura Meltzer said officers acted appropriately by shooting the coyote.

“When we have a wild animal in a residential area, or going near an elementary school, they can’t just necessarily sit by and wait,” she said.

Meltzer said the Nevada Department of Wildlife was called to assist but never caught up with the coyote.

The spokeswoman said she was unsure how many officers fired their weapons, but it was more than one.

Meltzer said an internal review of the shooting will occur, but the officers will not be placed on paid leave, as is routine in on-duty shootings involving humans.

Clark County School District spokeswoman Melinda Malone said the school was placed on lockdown, meaning nobody could go in or out of the school, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

She said the shooting occurred outside the multipurpose room, but no children or adults were in the room during the shooting.

After the shooting, students were shielded from the area where the coyote was killed, she said.

Coyote sightings are rare in the heart of the city, but no one should be surprised to see one almost anywhere in the Las Vegas Valley, said Doug Nielsen, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

“The bottom line is the coyote can really be found in any part of town. They crisscross the valley,” Nielsen said.

In urban areas, the animals generally stick to washes, power line corridors and other open spaces. They especially like golf courses, where they can hunt rabbits, mice and birds, but they are known to eat cats, small dogs, unsecured garbage and food left out for pets.

“They’re just going to react to what’s there,” Nielsen said. “What we need to do is adjust our behavior so they don’t feel comfortable among us.”

The average coyote weighs between 25 and 35 pounds, though they tend to look somewhat larger this time of year because of their thicker winter coats, Nielsen said.

Any wild animal should be treated with caution and respect, but coyotes are rarely aggressive toward people, and attacks are almost unheard of, he said.

Meltzer said officers may not have known what they were dealing with because the animal was jumping in and out of people’s backyards, and it’s possible witnesses only saw glimpses of the coyote.

Police received a report that a pet goose or chicken was killed by the coyote, Meltzer said.

She said an officer fired at the animal in a neighborhood north of the school about 10 minutes before it was killed. It was unclear whether the coyote was struck during the first shooting, Meltzer said.

Since 2006, there have been two unconfirmed reports of a person being bitten by a coyote in Clark County. Both cases involved someone trying to separate the animal from a pet dog, Nielsen said. Over the same period, more than 5,000 county residents have been bitten by domesticated dogs, including several fatal attacks.

“Just simply seeing a coyote is not reason for alarm. They’re around us all the time,” said Nielsen, who writes an outdoors column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

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