That’s Seola Beach Drive in southernmost West Seattle, a street that first leads through a ravine, and then to a small beach community. It’s where one WSB’er had an encounter last night that might portend the arrival of federal coyote hunters in West Seattle, from an agency that reportedly has killed a million coyotes, among other animals, and come under increasing scrutiny as a result. We are still investigating – but on the chance that someone else has had a similar encounter, we wanted to share his story, and the results of our first followup.
Garry says a “silver full-sized pickup” showed up at his neighbor’s home last night, while he was out with his dogs. A man got out of the truck and told Garry “he was from the Federal Government, and was out to find/ hunt and probably dispose of at least one, perhaps two coyotes that have been ‘getting too close’ to humans. He said he had some calls with the animals stalking kids, other dogs on leashes etc. …”
He gave Gary a cell-phone number, but not a business card. Gary says the man “drove down the street, was down there for a while, in the greenbelt below Arbor Heights Pool, then I went inside and never heard the truck go back up the street.”
The prospect of a federal agent hunting/killing coyotes sounded like something we read about recently, thanks to a comment here on WSB – a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture called Wildlife Services. Across the country, it has come under criticism for some of its “hunting” – looking for the latest headlines, in fact, we found this report datelined today, regarding a Congressional request for an investigation of its methods. That story mentions a California newspaper’s recent series of reports on the agency, which says Wildlife Services has killed more than a million coyotes, and many other animals – the link provided by this commenter last month.
Here in Western Washington, if you search for news coverage mentioning Wildlife Services, you will find a few cases of urban coyote hunting – one of its agents killed three coyotes last year in Lake Forest Park, after a controversial case in which a sheep kept in a backyard was found dead, a coyote feeding on it. (There is disagreement over whether the coyote killed the sheep or just happened to find it as food.)
In 2010, Wildlife Services trapped and killed an “aggressive coyote” in Magnolia (here’s coverage from our partners at The Seattle Times).
Back to our e-mail conversation with Garry from Seola Beach. After his first note this afternoon, we called Wildlife Services’ Washington state office in Olympia, and spoke with director Roger Woodruff. He said that without “checking with (his) field agents,” he couldn’t confirm whether a Wildlife Services agent had been assigned to hunt coyotes in West Seattle, and asked for details we didn’t have at the time – did the truck have government plates? Was the purported agent wearing a uniform?
We asked Garry. He didn’t notice the former, but confirmed the latter. And he recalled the man’s first name – Aaron. So we will be checking with Wildlife Services again tomorrow. What Woodruff did say – repeatedly – during our conversation this afternoon is that his agency “does get calls” about coyote concerns but that it “never goes onto private property without permission.”
In the five years we’ve published coyote reports here on WSB, we don’t recall hearing about coyote hunters – federal or otherwise – so we’re wondering if you have encountered anyone like this recently, as we continue researching what’s going on. If you have, we’d be interested in hearing from you (firstname.lastname@example.org, or post a comment).
Meantime, we drove Seola Beach Drive just before dusk tonight, looking for any signs of a coyote hunter. Garry tells us that he called Aaron earlier this evening after “happen(ing) upon an eviscerated doe near the side of the road, which is strange, because I have never seen a deer on this street.” Garry wondered if it were some kind of bait or trap; he says Aaron denied involvement.
We’ll keep following up.
ADDED 10:30 AM TUESDAY: Pending a longer, separate followup, we’ve learned more overnight and this morning.
This may be related to two reported cases in April of dogs being killed by a coyote, north of Seola Beach Drive. One area resident e-mailed us overnight to mention the incidents, including one in which the resident said a coyote came into a neighbor’s yard and grabbed an unleashed dog that was out relieving itself. She said there was talk among the neighbors of hiring a hunter/trapper for $1,200. This morning, commenter Beth reminds us that she e-mailed us after hearing something about this in April. We lost the trail of the story at the time while trying to confirm the dog attack report with the city – which apparently was not in the loop. At the time, we hadn’t heard of Wildlife Services, but some information Beth shared from a neighbor at the time indicates they are the ones who collect $1,200 to send a coyote hunter; an agent named Aaron (same name as the person mentioned in our original story above) is described as “specializing” in West Seattle.