SEATTLE — Coyotes are running rampant in multiple Seattle neighborhoods, from Beacon Hill to Magnolia.
Beth Sylves has lived in Magnolia for eight years. A coyote attacked her dog, Petey, one morning in February.
“I’ll never forget that sound, it was like an animal in distress,” Sylves said. “I jumped up and ripped the shade up and had eye contact with a coyote right at the foot of the stairs in our backyard.”
Petey got away, but had several puncture bites and nearly lost an ear.
Ring doorbell videos from neighbors show coyotes roaming the neighborhood.
KIRO 7 has also learned of several encounters between coyotes and children in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirms on Valentine’s Day before school started, a coyote nipped a student at Dearborn Elementary School.
The United States Department of Agriculture told KIRO 7 there were two other incidents where coyotes actually approached a school fence and either growled or bared their teeth at kids on the other side.
The USDA said this was because of food aggression, and believes it was because the coyotes are conditioned to come by the school at certain times, like when children would leave their lunches outside or drop their food.
No students were hurt, but the incidents launched a mitigation response from USDA’s wildlife services.
Washington state law doesn’t allow for coyote relocation, and three coyotes were put down. The carcasses went to the University of Washington’s coyote study, which works to understand urban coyotes and promote human-coyote coexistence.
“They gave us the coyotes to examine,” said Laura Prugh, UW professor, wildlife ecologist and coyote expert. “Then we’ve been working with the Burke Museum and doing the necropsies. They didn’t identify any obvious signs of poor health, seemed like they were in pretty good condition.”
Encounters with aggressive coyotes also happened in February on Mercer Island, prompting the removal of two coyotes there.
As for why there were so many coyote incidents this late in the winter mating season, Prugh said having more prey can boost the population.
“I think people have noticed it seems like rabbit numbers have increased and that might be involved in why people are seeing more coyotes,” Prugh said.
Coyotes help keep rabbit and geese populations down, though they will also eat cats.
But Prugh says when coyotes start associating people with food and lose their fear of humans, that’s when they get aggressive.
“People are well-intentioned in feeding wildlife, but especially for carnivores like coyotes and bears, it can basically be giving them a death sentence,” Prugh said.
As for Dearborn Park, there are now signs that say, “BE AWARE, COYOTES LIVE IN THE AREA.” Seattle Public Schools has also installed additional fencing around the elementary school.
Experts like Mark Jordan with Seattle University and the Urban Carnivore Project said the best thing to do when you see a coyote is something called “humane hazing.”
“Where you can make a lot of noise, even bang on pots, just make it kind of unpleasant for the coyotes to be where you don’t want them,” Jordan said. “Yell, make yourself big.”
Neighbors in Beacon Hill and Magnolia say they haven’t seen coyotes around since March.
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