Federal coyote hunter in West Seattle: ‘Fact-finding mission,’ says boss

June 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm | In West Seattle news, Wildlife | 64 Comments

coyote2.jpg

(April 2008 WSB photo – the only coyote we’ve ever seen near our Upper Fauntleroy HQ)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

When we first reported two nights ago about an apparent federal coyote hunter/trapper appearing in the south West Seattle neighborhood of Seola Beach, after coyotes attacked pet dogs this spring, we promised a followup.

We’ve made a lot of phone calls. We’ve noticed others picking up this story and turning it into something different.

The story here isn’t the fact coyotes are in a West Seattle neighborhood. As you know if you’ve been here more than a few years, they’re in just about every neighborhood here – and elsewhere in the city, and many other cities in the country.

The story remains the revelation that you can hire a federal agency – the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s Wildlife Services division – to come in and kill coyotes in your neighborhood. This may not be new, but it’s little-reported, so far as we have found through multiple exhaustive online-archive searches.

If you missed our previous story – a man we have since confirmed is indeed a Wildlife Services agent turned up in Seola Beach on Sunday night. Neighbor Garry e-mailed us about it, saying the man was asking about coyote sightings and saying he was from the federal government and, Garry went on, out to “find/hunt and probably dispose of at least one, perhaps two, coyotes that have been getting too close to humans.”

Some key information following Monday night’s story has come from commenters – especially Beth‘s reminder that she e-mailed us about the reported dog attacks two months ago. She also shared the letter that was being circulated in her neighborhood. We found it, unopened, in our e-mail archives; Beth had written at the time that her neighbor said it was OK for us to share. It read:

Most of you already know about the aggressive coyote problem that we are having. A couple of weeks ago your neighbor took her dog outside in front of her house at 11 pm for the last evening’s potty break and 2 coyotes attacked and killed the dog in front of her. This week another dog was attacked and killed while on a leash walking in the evening.

What you may not know, and what I did not know, is that no one is really responsible for controlling coyotes–even if they attack a human. The police will come if you call 911 during an immediate attack.

The US dept of agriculture and wildlife regional office in Mill Creek recommends we hire a government trapper/hunter for a fee of $1200. The trapper that specializes in West Seattle is Aaron Stevens, (phone # omitted). Aaron says that other communities have formed a co-op to fund the USDA coyote hunters.

This is what Aaron has informed me: Once the individual coyotes have learned humans are no threat, they become more and more bold/aggressive/frequent in their attacks. Our 2 coyotes probably have a litter of pups nearby that they are feeding and producing milk for; they will teach their young that humans are nothing to fear. They can attack anything under 25 lbs, including a child. He will hunt these two aggressive coyotes and remove them. Other coyotes may move into their place but will behave as normal fearful community coyotes, like we have always had. This is how he will manage the population. Once he is paid, he will continue to track the population as he gets reports from us, police, neighbors and nearby individuals.

Aaron is the name recalled by Seola Beach resident Garry, whose note to us on Sunday night is what led to our first story. While we didn’t have a name to check during our first conversation with Wildlife Services on Monday, we did when we called back this afternoon, and they confirmed that’s one of their agents.

Here’s what else we found out – not just from the federal agency, but also from the city:

Ken Gruver is the assistant director of the regional office of Wildlife Services, which he describes as an arm of the USDA that works “cooperatively – non-regulatory, non-law enforcement. We work at the request of individuals. Somebody has to request that we work.”

In other words, in this case, the residents who contacted them after the dog deaths.

Gruver says he talked with agent Stevens yesterday: “Aaron is working with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as homeowners who are concerned about possible aggressive coyotes. There are possibly a dozen or so in the area, but only a couple of them are suspected of being aggressive toward local citizens. We’re responding (to) purely a human health and safety issue. So right now, Aaron is contacting people and investigating to see what the situation is. At this time, we don’t know for sure, we don’t have plans to do any sort of work. We’re on a fact-finding mission right now.”

What about that $1,200 fee mentioned in the letter? we asked.

“I’m not familiar with that,” Gruver replied. “We do charge for our services. If Aaron has been contacted, he will kind of discuss a price that it would cost to do a particular job. He would collect money from that entity [group of residents, etc.] to perform that function. We are a cooperative service agency” – he stressed this multiple times, describing fees as reimbursement, and saying that the Wildlife Services “program” in this state “gets a small allotment [of taxpayer dollars] that doesn’t even cover the costs of paying the staff – it’s all funded by cooperative dollars.”

What happens if Stevens determines one or more coyotes in the area are “aggressive”?

“We would probably discuss it with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife – ‘here’s what we found, here’s our recommendation, (maybe) to lethally remove that coyote. If we were to set up a padded leg-hold trap, we would get a permit from the state. If we did any sort of work at night, we would talk with local law enforcement.”

Does that “work” entail shooting? we asked.

“If it warrants it, if there is a safe place to do it, that is one of many tools they have available to them. We work with local law enforcement. Our guys are pretty highly trained – it’s not like they are shooting stray bullets up and down the street. [They shoot in] a very surgical type of way.”

We asked about the other “tools”; Gruver mentioned an agent might use “some night vision if the coyotes are running around at night … If we were to set up traps, we would use an attractant, maybe coyote urine …”

Before we could even ask about it, he denied that Wildlife Services had anything to do with the deer carcass that turned up along Seola Beach Road (Garry told us about it in a subsequent exchange). They would not use that kind of bait, Gruver said, and besides, he reiterated, this situation is still in the “fact-finding” stage: “Aaron said, ‘I just went out there one day’. It’ll take some time to figure out. He might talk to homeowners, ‘have you seen them wandering around?’”

That’s the kind of questioning reported by Garry, who was out with his dogs when Stevens turned up at a neighbor’s house.

At that point in the conversation, Gruver veered into an explanation of their view of coyote behavior: “The urban coyote is an amazingly adaptable animal. They become very adaptive about living in town. A small percent of them will start learning things like ‘if I nip the lady, maybe she’ll let go of (her dog)’ … They start learning things like that. And they can be very territorial-specific with other canines. … A jogger comes by [with a dog], and the coyote can be aggressive toward the dog.”

He also mentioned last week’s much-reported Oregon Coast case in which a coyote bit a child and was subsequently killed by Wildlife Services.

He says they usually handle “several” requests like the Seola Beach-area one in any given year. We asked when we should check back to see how the “fact-finding mission” was going, and he suggested “every few days” – though he said he has multiple agents to supervise in two states (ours plus Alaska), he might “keep a close eye” on this case.

That reminded us of one last key question: If a decision is made to kill one or more coyotes in an area, are neighbors notified?

No, he said. “We don’t do neighborhood notification. Law enforcement would be notified, the state would be notified. Typically, if we’re going to do something like that, it will be done on private property with the consent of the private property owner.” If they did issue some kind of advance notification, he added, “You can kind of imagine what would happen – there would be a [large] turnout of people with concerns, and it would be a mess.”

Given that Seola Beach includes city-owned greenspace, we asked Seattle Parks about its policy regarding this kind of operation on its turf. Through spokesperson Karen O’Connor, the reply: “No hunters, federal or otherwise, are allowed in city parkland without previous notification and approval of a specific plan. For example, USDA-Wildlife Services works with us on an annual basis to monitor Canada geese and oil goose eggs for population control, and we have worked in the past with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Discovery Park several years ago to trap and relocate a cougar.”

WDFW remains the missing link in our stories so far; we have tried for the past two days to reach recommended contacts, but our calls/e-mails have not been returned. We’ll keep trying. Theirs is the agency that produced a piece of literature we have often linked here after coyote-sighting reports – see it here – with not just information about them and their behavior, but also advice on what to do to make sure they and we keep our distance from each other. Whatever you think about coyotes in the city, it’s important information.

P.S. Here is Wildlife Services’ own coyote brochure.

64 Comments

  1. Let’s get a co-op fund going in West Seattle and get rid of these pests.

    Comment by CB — 9:30 pm June 27, 2012 #

  2. Sounds like Aaron is pretty squared-away, with a solid and reasonable plan on how to effectively and effeciently address the problem. Thanks to WSB for tracking down this info.

    Comment by D.C. — 9:34 pm June 27, 2012 #

  3. I am happy that this is being looked into by professionals.

    Comment by West Seattleite — 9:43 pm June 27, 2012 #

  4. I like knowing we have coyotes in our midst (and wonder if they’ve displaced the red fox I saw a dozen years back by the tennis courts near Lincoln Park?), but agree with taking out problem animals. They cannot be allowed to lose their fear of man. Keep your pets inside, and an eye on your toddlers. I think this article makes it pretty clear that pretending we’re living at Disneyland isn’t an option.

    Comment by Chuck and Sally's Van Man — 9:56 pm June 27, 2012 #

  5. Great reporting, WSB – thank you for keeping us so thoroughly informed.

    Comment by Trileigh — 9:59 pm June 27, 2012 #

  6. just to put this in perspective.
    4.7 million people bitten by dogs, 20 or so killed by dogs , a billion dollars in insurance paid out for dog attacks every year. I agree with the angry mob that the coyote menace threatens us all but they just look like off-leash dogs to me.

    Comment by smith — 10:30 pm June 27, 2012 #

  7. Thanks for following up, WSB. I appreciate the more thorough look into what’s going on.
    .
    While I normally don’t have a problem with coyotes and like having them around, I agree that if they become aggressive towards people and their pets, they need to be removed.

    Comment by datamuse — 10:33 pm June 27, 2012 #

  8. Wow, this is an amazing story. Thank you WSB!

    Comment by Kae — 10:55 pm June 27, 2012 #

  9. Tracy, thank you for this — I know how many ‘hats’ you wear here, and digging-deep on something like this must really complicate your time.

    I hope others weigh in on this, because I’m daunted by trying to remember and then articulate all of the questions and concerns this post (and is predecessor) invoke for me.
    The bottom line is that as much as I agree with previous posters (here and on other threads) that occasionally some animals can become “problems” and must be managed, I have deep qualms about how this “agency” works. It almost seems as if they operate in a vacuum, reporting out neither to superiors or citizens (unless provoked). Gruver admits that “it would be a mess” if they (Wildlife Services) provided public notification re: coyote kills, because it would lead to a “large turnout of people with concerns.”

    Hmm, yes, seems likely. And well within folks’ rights. Democracy is messy sometimes.

    I found his responses to be euphemistic and the epitome of double-speak; they certainly did little to shed light on the operations of Wildlife Services. I doubt anyone with a critical mind would be satisfied with the explanations he provided. For example, what kind of criteria is Aaron using on this “fact finding mission” to determine whether the Seola Beach coyotes are truly “problems.” What are Aaron’s qualifications to make such a determination? Is he an urban-wildlife biologist? Animal behaviorist? Or a hunter-tracker? His educational and professional background will surely influence if not determine how he judges the animals’ behavior. And won’t the “$1200″ influence that, as well? It doesn’t sound as if the “co-op funds” were raised to pay someone to “explore” the issue; the neighbors want the animals killed and I’m sure that’s what they thought they were paying for. (And it sounds from other comments like that’s what Aaron thinks he’s there for, if he’s asking homeowners if the has permission to shoot — albeit “in a surgical type way” (Gruver) — from their decks!)

    Finally, it seems as if every aspect of the agency is shrouded in secrecy and ambiguity — fees, protocols, etc. It would be helpful if we had some background or insight into other “cooperative service agencies” (as Gruver dubs Wildlife Services). The idea that an individual or group can hire the government to perform a job for them is news to me.

    Also, it appears from his responses that they do not *have* to “confer” with any other involved groups. He mentioned they “probably” would discuss a plan with WDFW and said that they would “notify” other groups (law enforcement, etc.) if they decided to proceed with killing the coyotes. It sounds as if, as a “cooperative service agency,” the people to whom they are most beholden are the ones who show up with the most cash.

    Comment by goodgraces — 11:10 pm June 27, 2012 #

  10. I’d rather get rid of a lot of human beings here first…:(

    Comment by Jiggers — 11:55 pm June 27, 2012 #

  11. WSB, thanks so much for this detailed followup. Without you, we would be in the dark about this, as well as so many other issues that affect us.

    And Goodgraces, I strongly second all of your concerns. After reading the Sacramento Bee articles about Wildlife Services, I was especially concerned with this federal agency’s apparent lack of accountability, and their aggressive, nonsurgical tactics (contrary to Mr. Gruver’s description), resulting in very substantial losses of nontarget animals, including dogs, eagles, and other wildlife. According to the article, “in most cases, they (Wildlife Services) have officially revealed little or no detail about where the creatures were killed, or why. But a Bee investigation has found the agency’s practices to be indiscriminate, at odds with science, inhumane and sometimes illegal.” http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/28/4450678/the-killing-agency-wildlife-services.html#storylink=cpy

    Mr. Gruver said that they would “probably discuss it with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife…” I hope that this coordination and oversight can be required.

    Even better would be for WDFW to handle this situation, not Wildlife Services. Once we hear from WDFW, they will hopefully calm our concerns.

    Comment by ws suzanne — 1:27 am June 28, 2012 #

  12. Leg hold traps don’t distinguish ‘problem animals’ from others. Animals caught in them have been known to chew off their own leg to free themselves. While I don’t agree with killing the coyotes, a gunshot or a live trap and humane euthanasia would certainly be quicker.

    Comment by mehud7 — 7:09 am June 28, 2012 #

  13. So I guess they want to take out “problem animals” which I don’t really disagree with in theory. However, how on earth do they determine which coyotes are the problem animals weeks after the “problematic” event occurred? Do they just shoot a bunch of them and hope they got the one that has become too bold? I don’t agree with that solution, and do think they should notify people if they are shooting guns on public property where people may possibly be nearby. Does this “solution” even work and if they say it does, how do they know? Or does it just make people feel more safe, at the cost of 1200 dollars from private citizens? Paying a person working for the federal governmnet is certainly a bizzare arrangement and doesn’t sound on the up and up. How do they decide how much to charge? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

    Comment by Jawat — 7:50 am June 28, 2012 #

  14. On the topic of notification, assuming any lethal steps are reasonable then I think at least a post-shooting public reporting requirement would be appropriate.

    Comment by ScottA — 8:03 am June 28, 2012 #

  15. Great reporting,WSB!

    Comment by lt fd — 8:32 am June 28, 2012 #

  16. So, if they kill the alpha parents, what happens to the den of pups?

    Comment by LisaM — 8:32 am June 28, 2012 #

  17. wow jiggers. just. wow.

    Comment by cr — 8:36 am June 28, 2012 #

  18. Ah, the attacks the coyote fans said would never happen have happened (and went unread/unreported). I’m so sorry to hear that people have had to experience this. A leashed dog is mere feet from its owner, so that shows you how brave these coyotes have gotten and how traumatic it must have been for the people.

    I’d help pay for more trackers/hunters, if neighborhoods start co-ops.

    I’m going to start carrying a knife while walking my dog. If a coyote tries to attack her, I’ll take care of that one myself.

    Comment by quesera — 8:49 am June 28, 2012 #

  19. Thank you WSB for the amazing amount of follow thru and info. Good graces, I can not agree with you more. Having grown up in Ranch country and having several family members who are State Park Rangers in Oregon, I am very familiar with the very fragile balance that is always being negotiated between the needs of a human/domestic animal population and our wild animal neighbors. I am not squeamish or in any way against humane uthanization of wild or domestic animals when needed, however, this whole set up is simply mind boggling. There is a very good chance that a few aggressive coyotes need to be dealt with. Will never know for sure though, since the agency does not feel it is necessary to hold a public meeting or pass the information along. This lack of public discourse is astounding, as is the implication that it is avoided simply because they do not want to have to deal with it.
    People fear what they do not understand, and hysteria happens quickly. As many commentators have pointed out, the risks and dangers from domestic dogs far outweigh the risks from wild animals, yet it is the coyotes we are afraid of. Not to be too tong in check (I do understand that a neighborhood setting is different), but I can not help but think of all the campers who constantly tell my Park Ranger brother how they have the “right” to camp with their small pets and take them into the wilderness unharmed and thus, they just need to “take care of” the bears, snakes, birds of pray, poison ivy, etc…. that “threaten” them. We want to live in the northwest, have a home right next to large open space areas and less then an hours drive from the mountains, enjoy the tremendous beauty of seabirds, otters, owls, etc.. but not have to deal with any of the less “cute” sides of nature

    Comment by Thistle — 8:53 am June 28, 2012 #

  20. Hey Smith, I like your numbers but the fact in your statement is they do attack people and there pets. The numbers are small but if this saves just one child then it is a worth it. Isn’t this what everybody says. If it saves just one. Right?

    Comment by boy — 9:10 am June 28, 2012 #

  21. Thank you so much for this comprehensive report and investigation Tracy! Excellent job. Still, the response from the various agencies does appear to be vague and non-committal. Yes, let’s hire Aaron to cull the population of Coyotes Way, Way down. They are very aggressive.

    Comment by eric — 9:12 am June 28, 2012 #

  22. LisaM, good point. The den of pups will not likely survive with even one parent killed. The pups are not weaned yet and the female depends on the male to bring food. So, even killing one parent will result in several casualties.

    How can the Hunter possibly know a problem coyote from a peaceful one? Is it by trial and error?

    Comment by wswildlife — 9:18 am June 28, 2012 #

  23. If your toy dog gets killed in your presence, the fault lies entirely with you.

    Comment by Uncommon Sense — 9:26 am June 28, 2012 #

  24. I did get a call back from the state DFW a little while ago. I will add toplines to this in a bit. But for the question some has asked, no, there is no requirement for the federal agency to get sign-off or buy-in or approval from state DFW – “the feds trump the state,” as Sgt. Kim Chandler put it. He did have some definition for “aggressive coyote” – if there is a coyote going around eating cats, that’s not a coyote problem, that’s a people problem, is exactly how he put it. A coyote going after a leashed dog is different, he said. But he also said that killing one or two doesn’t really solve any problems because others will just “move into their territory.” And he acknowledged that if time has lapsed – as it has in this case unless there have been other attacks since April – they don’t know for sure if a coyote they hunt and kill is the same one that showed the aggression in going after the leashed dog – TR

    Comment by WSB — 9:28 am June 28, 2012 #

  25. I think we need to start a neighborhood group consisting of all sides of this issue to provide some oversight, advocacy and accountability. What do you think?

    Comment by LisaM — 10:35 am June 28, 2012 #

  26. I am next to a greenbelt and have seen some roaming our area. That said, I have several neighbors with small dogs and cats. I would hate to see something bad happen to any of them. If there is a humane way to remove the problem ones, them I’m all for it. I just don’t want this to become a mass extinction of all of them because of a couple of bad apples.

    Comment by Gregg S — 10:51 am June 28, 2012 #

  27. LisaM — Absolutely! Let’s come together as a community on this and work together toward a solution.

    And to those neighbors who contacted Wildlife Services, are you willing to ask Wildlife Services to leave to allow this process to work?

    What do all you all think of meeting this weekend or next week to start to a conversation together?

    Comment by ws suzanne — 11:59 am June 28, 2012 #

  28. “don’t want this to become a mass extinction of all of them (coyotes) because of a couple of bad apples (coyotes).”
    .
    This is sort of backwards. You will see (are seeing) a sort of mass extinction of the smaller animals by the coyotes. They, the coyotes, get hungry and then need to eat something. They will go after animals that are about their size or smaller. They hunt in small packs. And when they finish with one group of small animals in the area they get hungry again and go after what’s left. This is typical predator-prey stuff. The fact that they are going after leashed dogs next to the human owners just may be that the other prey populations have been decreased. And so removing one or two bad coyote apples probably won’t make much of a difference.

    Comment by Neal Chism — 12:24 pm June 28, 2012 #

  29. ” As many commentators have pointed out, the risks and dangers from domestic dogs far outweigh the risks from wild animals, yet it is the coyotes we are afraid of.”
    .
    Most people feed their domesticated pet dogs. And if we had large packs of wild hungry dogs running around in the same numbers as we have pet dogs, then we would have something to fear. The coyote population is going to do nothing but go up because there is not a predator here in the city to naturally control their numbers. No cougars or whatever bigger animal likes to eat these.
    .
    The latin name for coyotes translates to “barking dogs”. They belong to the canine family.

    Comment by Neal Chism — 1:17 pm June 28, 2012 #

  30. We should dispose of everything since we wouldn’t want any risk in our lives. This would include traffic, bikes and the trouble makers on Alki. If your dog gets attacked on a leassh and you do nothing about it then that lies on you. It’s a coyote, make them fear you. Common sense goes a long way.

    Comment by John — 1:22 pm June 28, 2012 #

  31. @Uncommon Sense – Really?

    original comment:

    If your toy dog gets killed in your presence, the fault lies entirely with you.

    Comment by Uncommon Sense — 9:26 am June 28, 2012 #

    Comment by Kate K — 1:36 pm June 28, 2012 #

  32. Wow. What great reporting! Thank you for taking the time to research this.
    As a frequent park-walker, I would be wary of a coyote, but I am definitely more scared of poorly controlled domestic dogs…especially after being attack-terrorized twice by loose pit bulls.

    Comment by Denise — 2:12 pm June 28, 2012 #

  33. The vast difference in the comments on this thread compared to the last one, shows how much a little transparency can go a long way in making people feel more comfortable. No one needs more meetings to attend or additional expensive regulation/process overhead. If these clandestine urban assassins would just be a little more open about what was going on, ESPECIALLY in the communities that they are actively working in, they’d have a lot less “mess” to deal with IMO.

    Start with proper identification for the employees for chrissakes. I see some similarities between what’s happening here and the removal of a mature tree that’s at risk of falling on someone. Post a sign in the immediate area with a contact number for additional questions. Answer the damn phone. Done!

    I understand not wanting to create a brouhaha, but the way they do business is actually causing more of a stir here than would be necessary if they had just been a little more transparent about their activities.

    Comment by MLJ — 2:14 pm June 28, 2012 #

  34. “We should dispose of everything since we wouldn’t want any risk in our lives. This would include traffic, bikes and the trouble makers on Alki. If your dog gets attacked on a leassh and you do nothing about it then that lies on you. It’s a coyote, make them fear you.”
    .
    We manage risk here in the big city; seatbelts, bicycle helmets, a police force with a 911 system. And it is not about one dog attack on a leash. It is about why the attack happened. There has been (is going to be) a big change in the distribution of animal types here. We stand a good chance of substituting the variety of small animals we have (had) for a dual crop of coyotes and most likely the rodents.

    Comment by Neal Chism — 3:30 pm June 28, 2012 #

  35. I am a 7 year resident of West Seattle and I read an interesting article in a Humane Society magazine that discussed the urban coyote problem facing many cities. The article stated a study that showed that killing urban coyotes actually leads to an increase in their numbers. In a local coyote family group there is a alpha male female pair that is the only pair in the group that breeds. When one of the alpha pair is killed the group dynamic breaks down and the rest of the group starts to breed. Thsi leads to more pups being born and living in the same area.

    I understand that pepole being hurt and pets killed is unacceptable but killing is not neccessarily the best solution.
    http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/coyotes/tips/against_killing_coyotes.html

    Comment by Donald Markey — 5:21 pm June 28, 2012 #

  36. Humans are taking away the animals natural habitat away from them. Where are they supposed to go?? Bears, cougars, Coyotes, Raccoon??? The thought of hunting the coyotes disgusts me. There is no reason people and the animals can’t live together.

    Comment by ~~HockeyWitch~~ — 6:23 pm June 28, 2012 #

  37. They and their pups are hungry., it’s natural. What do YOU do when you are hungry? They follow their instincts, we humans are not so kind in numerous categories, even when identified for awful crimes, we are not eliminated so quickly. I second all the other posts of concern regarding if non-threatening coyotes get killed. (HOW is that agent going to know?) the purposeful slow suffering of left behind pups. Why do you ‘big bad humans’ keep mentioning fear and hate of coyotes? As they follow animal instinct, we humans supposedly have “free will” and “consciences” and look at the billion times hateful actions we do and get away with it. I also have beloved family cats, but nature is here before we all encroached in. The vigilantie mindset needs to have a reality check and not act as if your spieces is greater than another.

    Comment by KD — 7:23 pm June 28, 2012 #

  38. Brother and Sister COYOTE, our lost ,older brethren, now subjugated to Obamacare jack booted thugs doing feasibility studies and gathering nefarious “informations”! As a perpetually ticked off resident of West Seattle, with profound and disturbingly conflicted reasonings about most events and and natural occurrences, I would like to suggest that the coyotes of West Seattle be rounded up humanely (offer them brie and and sun chips to ride in an electric vehicle) and they should be released into the wilds of the PCC. All of us correct thinking West Seattleites could be protected from a minor, yet horribly frightening plague of masterful old-testament beasts roaming our streets… and yet the tender tiny creatures (who predate our wretched presence by imaginary millennia, not unlike Hobbits and Jehovah’s Witnesses) could be cuddled by happy, ever sharing, vegans wearing hemp fashions and toting coyote snax in Afro-Scandavian bags, entertained by drum circles and UTNE READER readings. …Wooo, I am exhausted from Solomon like problem solving here people. Where is our prodigiously bearded Mayor on this issue? What about the asking the SEAFAIR PIRATES for a drunken, scarf wearing hunt? Lets get this right West Seattle before we lose an opportunity is be angry! A non binding city wide referendum NOW!

    Comment by Cranky Westie — 7:28 pm June 28, 2012 #

  39. What I gather from your additional comment, WSB, is that although the Federal Coyote Hunter is here because of a few aggressive coyotes and even though he will most likely eliminate some coyotes, those “problem” coyotes may not be the ones killed. How is this a solution for anyone?

    Comment by Delridge Resident — 8:57 pm June 28, 2012 #

  40. @Uncommon Sense and @John I don’t understand how a person walking their dog on a leash is at fault for the attack? Seems like a lot of assumptions were made unless you both know more about the situations than I do. How do you know it was a toy breed and how do you know that the owner did nothing to try to stop the coyotes? I can’t imagine how devastating this situation would be!

    Comment by Delridge Resident — 8:59 pm June 28, 2012 #

  41. Can’t let this misinformation pass – animals DO NOT “chew off their own legs” to escape leghold traps. Think about it: you really thing a coyote can reason that if it dismembers its leg it will get free? I mean, apart from the absurdity that it could cause itself that kind of harm after reasoning the relative benefits of trapped/not trapped. Impressionable children hear this fallacy and just repeat it as adults, I think, without ever making the slightest attempt to think it through or ask someone who might actually know what they’re talking about. It’s utterly absurd. Regardless of your thoughts on trapping, let’s finally put this ridiculous urban legend to rest. If you can really still possibly believe it after thinking about it, at least make SOME attempt to investigate it. NO. TRUTH. TO. IT.

    Comment by AE — 9:08 pm June 28, 2012 #

  42. I appreciate that someone is willing to do something to eliminate aggressive coyotes. Those who don’t want aggressive coyotes managed do not understand how lethal they can be. Just google for coyote attacks and see that humans are on the menu also. I live next to acreage of private wooded property and hear them hunting in their packs frequently. I’ve lived here without the coyotes and now that they are here, I do not feel safe. The professional who is working to eliminate the aggressive coyotes knows what he is doing; let him do it to make the environment safer residents. Who knows, maybe the child he prevents from being attacked by coyotes might be yours?

    Comment by BJ — 9:23 pm June 28, 2012 #

  43. Cranky Westie — I think you’ve had more fun than most in tackling this subject. Offering the coyotes a bit of brie, sun chips, and even a ride in an electric vehicle to round them up, indeed. In only a few short months, they’ll be shopping at TJ’s with the rest of us, and fully domesticated. :)

    Comment by ws suzanne — 9:47 pm June 28, 2012 #

  44. The coyotes were here first y’all. If coyotes are killing dogs and cats, you can only blame humans for taking over and destroying their habitat.

    Comment by FauntleeHillsFag — 10:29 pm June 28, 2012 #

  45. @Cranky Westie
    Well stated, Look, there goes a coyote riding a share bike in the bike lane, I hear the mayor is going to give them their own lane now thier numbers are up.

    Comment by Dave — 10:48 pm June 28, 2012 #

  46. I completely agree with goodgraces. This just sounds like bounty hunting to me.

    Jiggers, you have a valid point!

    Comment by Enid — 6:53 am June 29, 2012 #

  47. “There is no reason people and the animals can’t live together.”
    .
    Yes, someone should just go out there and talk to these coyotes and tell them to stop tearing all the other animals to pieces for food. That should work pretty well.

    Comment by Neal Chism — 8:38 am June 29, 2012 #

  48. No Neal,
    We need to tear down our cities and move to the forests so the coyotes can have their land back. Most likely sacrifice some of our young and our pets to ask forgiveness as well.

    Comment by cr — 10:12 am June 29, 2012 #

  49. “The coyotes were here first y’all.”
    .
    “If coyotes are killing dogs and cats, you can only blame humans for taking over and destroying their habitat.”
    .
    .
    I’m assuming that you are a human who has decided to live here too, so you are arguing either;

    1) We humans all need to leave and let Seattle go back to nature. Find another city without coyotes to live in??
    .
    2) Or you are arguing that it is ok with you to bring in the slightly bigger animals that we humans currently don’t allow in the city right now like; cougars, bears, wild dogs, etc.. Make it a real interesting city to jog in.
    .
    If it is #1, I can see a few problems with that plan, but if it is #2 then the question becomes where do we draw the line at when to start managing the animals in the city? Bears are a no, squirrels a yes…. Large packs of coyotes?
    .
    And the coyotes seem to be thriving in the habitat that still remains, so how is it that we blame ourselves for this? Oh wait, the dogs and cats. I assume you mean all the pets. Well heck, let’s just get rid of all of those animals? Then what will the coyotes have to eat?
    .
    The problem is that the coyotes are not just killing only dogs and cats, our pets or otherwise, they are going after everything else that moves to get food and make more new little coyotes that will grow up to be big coyotes.
    .
    So wish all you want for peace and goodwill between all the little creatures and humans, or take shots at all the human pet owners, but without some control on the population of these very efficient predators, this story will not end well.
    .
    And we have been talking about this now for four years here on the blog, but I am glad to see that Tracy finally has heard something out of WSDFW instead of just having to reread the glossy brochures.

    Comment by Neal Chism — 11:16 am June 29, 2012 #

  50. Thank you for your excellent reporting, Tracy!

    Comment by Amy Thomson — 12:19 pm June 29, 2012 #

  51. Just a portion of what I’ve found.

    In June 2010, a 3-year-old girl and a 6-year-old girl were attacked and seriously injured in separate attacks by coyotes in Rye, New York, a suburb of New York City. The six-year-old was attacked by two coyotes on June 25 and the three-year-old was attacked by one coyote on June 29. There was no indication the animals were rabid, but the girls were given treatment as a precaution.

    On June 20, 2011, A 100 pound coyote hybrid attacked a 3-year-old Randolph County, North Carolina girl who was jumping on a trampoline with her older sister just outside their home. Her sister yelled for their mother, who came running and attacked the coyote, which was dragging her daughter into the woods. The mother got the children into the house and called 911, but the coyote would not leave their yard for at least thirty minutes until a neighbor brought her a shotgun and together they killed the coyote before the police arrived at the rural home.

    During a period of two months, from July to September, 2011, three children between the ages of two and six were bitten by a coyote, and a fourth was approached by a coyote within two feet in a neighborhood of Broomfield, CO.[8] All four encounters are thought to have involved the same adult male coyote, who was lethally removed after the last attack.

    In January, 2012, an eight-year-old Oakville, Ontario girl was playing in her backyard with a friend when a coyote jumped the fence and attacked. The coyote chased the children inside the house, then stalked around outside the house, but ran away before the police arrived. The authorities killed a coyote found in the area later that day, and the girl was taken to the hospital, treated for bites to the leg, and given rabies shots because it was not clear whether the rabies-free animal that was killed was the same one which had attacked the child.

    On May 15, 2012, a 14-year-old Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia child’s motocross boots helped him survive a coyote attack.

    On Jun 22, 2012, at Nehalem Bay State Park on the coast of Oregon, a coyote attacked a 5-year-old girl who was following her family back from the beach on a sand path through beachgrass. The coyote first grabbed a stick which the girl had been trailing behind her, then “lunged at” the screaming child, nipping at her ribcage and feet and breaking the skin on her back, before cutting off the attack to confront her father, who succeeded in driving the determined coyote off. The coyote was not caught, so the child began precautionary treatments for rabies.1981 in Glendale, California, a coyote attacked toddler Kelly Keen, who was rescued by her father, but died in surgery due to blood loss and a broken neck.

    In October 2009, Taylor Mitchell, a 19-year-old folk singer on tour died from injuries sustained in an attack by a group of coyotes while hiking in the Skyline Trail of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada.

    Comment by Long camper — 1:47 pm June 29, 2012 #

  52. I posted these cases not to instill fear or to stir the pot but to inform. While these are very much exceptions to the rule, I assure you, aggressive coyotes are to be taken quite seriously.

    Comment by Long camper — 2:15 pm June 29, 2012 #

  53. Seems to me that there are many, many myths and assumptions made throughout these comments; but one them is NOT that coyotes will not chew their own feet/legs to escape a trap.

    I wonder how many traps have been set by the blogger, AE? Just how many coyotes has he successfully trapped? He speaks with such conviction that anyone would believe him to be some sort of authority on the issue of trapping, but he is 100% wrong.

    For 24 years, I ran my own trapline in Wyoming; quitting a few years ago only because my old bones couldn’t take it anymore. Much to the chagrins of many reading this, I have trapped thousands of coyotes (among other things). And although rare, a coyote will chew it’s own foot to escape. This happens only when there is a loss of “feeling” or bloodflow in the foot. This may be caused by extreme cold temps, a broken foot, or when the jaws of the trap don’t allow proper bloodflow to the paw. If a coyote can’t feel it, then it doesn’t hurt him to chew it. It doesn’t have anytihg to do with “reason”. Its natural instinct is to escape. Period.

    All that being said, I have found that WA state law dictates that a trapper must check their traps every 24 hours. This is good (and I personally always did frequent trap checks as well) so any animal trapped will be in the trap for just a short time; thus less stress and chance of damaging itself. However, I also found after doing some reading that there was a voter passed Initiative (713 I think) here in WA in 2000 which outlawed steel jawed traps and only allows “padded” jaw traps. This is a shame. The rubber jaws on a padded trap only act as a touriquet, cutting bloodflow to the paw and increasing the potential for chewing. So as it turns out, all of you that voted to pass this law inadvertently increased animal suffering. Steel jaws very rarely cause significant damage and are much more humane; especially with up to date modifications (certain chain length, swivels, etc). When state government leaves important decisions to the (often ignorant) public, these are the kind of results we get. Choosing what is most humane for trapping should be left to that of the professionals in the field, and biologist who have studied it; not soccermoms and businessmen who don’t have the slightest ideal of what a trap may or may not do to a coyote’s foot.

    A word to AE; before you attempt to “put an urban legend to rest”, you may want to make sure that what you’re saying is based in fact. It’s ironic that you attempt to put an end to “misinformation” by creating your own. I myself had several coyotes chew out (unless another animal came and chewed it off) and I’ve seen enough 3 legged coyotes running across the prairie over the years to know better. As I read post after post, I was at first ammused at what people think they know and pretend to be experts about. But it actually becomes frustrating after awhile; I couldn’t resist my own post. However, if there is a subject about “software engineering” or “building model airplanes”, you won’t find a post from me pretending like I know something about it; I don’t.. .

    I could go on about other “misinformation”, but maybe everyone could read up a little on basic coyote ecology/management. I’m posting a link, but if it doesn’t come up then google this: ipm.ucdavis.edu/pmg/pestnotes/pn74135.html

    http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74135.html

    Comment by let's_b_real — 2:54 pm June 29, 2012 #

  54. Just the facts. I love your reporting Tracy. Thank you!

    Comment by Westie — 4:22 pm June 29, 2012 #

  55. We’ve lived right above Seola Beach’s greenbelt for 8+ years and have never seen any Coyote’s but in the last few months there have been a lot of “LOST CAT’S” signs posted in the neighborhood, at first I thought they were just lost now I think the Coyotes have gotten them. :-(

    This should be a warning to all pet owners don’t let your cats outside and bring Bear repellant or Pepper spray when walking your dogs just to be safe!

    Comment by NemoBeanBean — 4:45 pm June 29, 2012 #

  56. Disagree Mr. Chism. Where ever you go you are at risk of being attacked by an animal…human or otherwise. What most are saying is that it’s not up to us who we share this city with. We are lucky to have Coyotes and your “facts” about them eating all the small animals in WS and turning to larger animals is ridiculous. They are oportunistic hunters so watch your kids and keep your pets protected. Your pets and kids can just as easily be stolen by humans which we can’t identify so should we also thin the human population in hopes of avoiding conflict?

    Comment by John — 5:14 pm June 29, 2012 #

  57. Thanks for disagreeing. Good to discuss this.
    .
    You Say;
    .
    ““facts” about them eating all the small animals in WS and turning to larger animals is ridiculous.”
    .
    .
    I say;
    .
    These are predators, and very good ones. And I did not say they eat small animals and turn instantly into bigger coyotes on the spot. I cut and pasted here to what I typed and what was printed in my earlier comment.
    .
    “to get food and make more new little coyotes that will grow up to be big coyotes”
    .
    It is called reproduction.
    .
    Predator-Prey modeling of animal populations is a well trodden path. Google it or wikipedia it and you will find without a controlling influence on these animals their numbers will grow (exponentially) based on the available food. And we have lots of prey food items, raccoons, dogs, cats, squirrels. Pretty much all of the little fury animals.
    .
    What you say;
    “What most are saying is that it’s not up to us who we share this city with.”
    .
    I say, we don’t allow bears in the city. Not for very long. We don’t see many cougars, or bobcats, or piranha, or boa constrictors, or, or. You can make your own list of animals that are not on the A-list for city living. And I wrote about this several years ago on the blog too, under the coyote reports. This is up to us and our lawmakers. It is our city.
    .
    Two or three years ago I was calling to thin the numbers of coyotes or relocate while their numbers were very small, but nothing was done. So now time has passed and the coyotes are well established in WS again it seems, based on the blog sightings. And I don’t have many facts, but I wish DFW would gather some and provide the data to the public. And now I fear it is too late to go out “a hunt’n” and have much impact on the problem.
    .
    You say;
    ” Your pets and kids can just as easily be stolen by humans”
    .
    I say there are pretty firm laws about child abduction on the books. It is an awful crime and I won’t comment on the punishment these humans deserve here, as it is a little off topic.

    Comment by Neal Chism — 5:52 pm June 29, 2012 #

  58. Went down Seola Beach drive yesterday. The only thing I saw intrusive was all the invasive growing on the trees. If I was a coyote I would live there too! Looks like the neighbors like to use the woods as a dumping ground.Come take a drive down there and see for yourself. Don’t worry neighbors in about 20 years or so the forest will be taken over by all the invasive and when the trees fall, all that will be left is the insects feeding off the downed trees! No more coyotes but lots of bugs. Then the houses on one side can look at the houses on the other side. Maybe by then the government will have a federal agency come and get rid of the problem bugs.

    Comment by Woodsman — 8:00 pm June 29, 2012 #

  59. Great reporting, Tracy, thank you.
    .
    I, too, read the Sacramento Bee’s series on USDA Wildlife Services and was extremely concerned by it. WS has claimed all along that they are professionals and know what they are doing. But their disturbing record says otherwise. The Seola Beach residents might well lose a pet to WS itself if they call in this secretive, non-accountable agency . . . WS is known to have killed pets “accidentally.”
    .
    Also, as others have pointed out here, and as the state DFW representative acknowledges, Wildlife Services has no way to know which are the “aggressive” coyotes. Non-aggressive coyotes might well be killed instead. The pups might be left without one or both parents; that is cruel.
    .
    No, we don’t yet know what the answer is. But calling in an agency with a brutal past, that common sense tells us cannot solve the problem . . . that’s not it.

    Comment by K — 10:03 pm June 29, 2012 #

  60. Excellent reporting, Tracy, as usual.

    One nagging question: Is “Aaron” a contractor or paid agency staff? Sounds like he gets to negotiate his own fee, and that doesn’t seem like proper government agency behavior. If he’s a contractor, is he someone local and how was he selected to be the right contractor?

    Makes me a bit nervous that there might be a guy out there authorized to stalk our neighborhoods at night without our knowledge. A bit creepy.

    Comment by Lola P — 1:32 am June 30, 2012 #

  61. Aaron sounds very suspicious, from all the links and comments something about him does not feel “right”. and now this fee issue is really more like a vigilante for hire situation, hope he is just after coyotes, has a license to own a gun, and is responsible, I would be very very careful if he is not providing enough identification to be affiliated with a government organization. Why no last name, and is his name really Aaron? Did anyone check with the police to see what he is doing is even legal in the neighborhood?

    Comment by bob — 12:53 pm June 30, 2012 #

  62. To the point of Aaron: Wildlife Services confirmed he is one of their agents. And yes, what they do is legal. As noted in the two stories I have done on this so far (with more followups to come), I have checked with city, state, feds. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 1:18 pm June 30, 2012 #

  63. I’m wondering about getting an injunction against Wildlife Services to temporarily stop this.

    It would buy some time to help us know what steps to take next. Are there others who think this could work?

    Comment by ws suzanne — 1:50 pm July 1, 2012 #

  64. Suzanne, I think I understand your desire to slow this process down and try to understand what the actual situation is here.
    .
    I am thinking that an injunction is probably not necessary in this case. Movement by any gov. agency has been going so slow, that little will happen anyway, especially over a big holiday week. The DFW had been inert in this matter. WS will not do much unless there is another severe interaction with a coyote and the victims involved call them.
    .
    I would like to find out if it is 10, 100, or a 1000 coyotes we are dealing with in West Seattle. And this seems like a DFW investigation. If it is 10 and we just have a good Blog reporting system making lots of observations, then deal with those 10 (and soon). If it is 1000 animals, the issue is probably out of control and any action by WS will probably be inconsequential, assuming they don’t start shooting up mailboxes and having a large time of it.
    .

    Comment by Neal Chism — 3:09 pm July 1, 2012 #

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