A two-part update tonight regarding West Seattle coyotes: First, thanks to everyone who has shared recent sightings, which we’ll be adding to the map that debuted here back in May, with locations of the sighting reports we’ve received periodically since 2007. Nothing particularly unusual about the latest sightings – just further proof that coyotes are all over the peninsula; the sightings included the Admiral District, Seaview, Gatewood, West Seattle High School vicinity, Hamilton Viewpoint vicinity, Arbor Heights. One included a warning from a Fauntleroy resident who believes a coyote killed their cat in late July; their neighbor heard a commotion and found the cat in his driveway, three days after another local family lost a pet. The resident says, “People should be warned to keep their pets inside at night, especially.”
That brings us to the Seola Beach situation we first reported in late June, after learning that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division had been called in to investigate the possibility of “aggressive coyotes” (here’s our original report). We finally got back in touch with Wildlife Services’ regional assistant director Ken Gruver late last week after a few bouts of protracted phone tag. He in turn checked in with the field agent who was reported to be working with neighbors upset by coyote attacks on two dogs last spring.
Gruver is the official who told us, as quoted in our second June report, that the field agent, Aaron Stevens, was on a “fact-finding mission” that could lead to a recommendation to kill one or more coyotes.
In this latest conversation, Gruver told WSB contributor Katie Meyer that Stevens believes up to nine coyotes are in the Seola area, and his current task is “technical assistance” – educating those who are out walking dogs, etc., to keep them close, and trying to figure out who is feeding the coyotes. Gruver said that with up to nine in the area, “I guarantee you someone is feeding those coyotes,” and that’s what contributes to the coyotes losing their fear of humans, and getting too close to people and pets. “In nearly all cases of problem coyotes, we can trace it back to people feeding them.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean somebody putting out bowls of food specifically intended for coyotes – it’s food left outside for pets, garbage cans left open, food left in parking lots or picnic areas.
As of that conversation, there had been no specific identification of problem animals, nor any decision to kill them. Gruver told Katie he doesn’t know what’ll happen next, but, “hopefully if there’s a food source, we will find it and eliminate it, make people aware. And if you see a coyote walking down the street, run him off – make him shy of people, get coyotes back to being afraid of humans.” That’s the same advice in the state Department of Fish and Wildlife “coexisting with coyotes” information we’ve long been sharing here.
How long will Stevens continue investigating/assisting in Seola Beach? “Unknown,” Gruver replied. We’ll continue to check back.
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