The latest round of coyote concern in West Seattle is NOT grounds for trapping and killing one (or more). We heard that today from a source that might surprise you – an agent of the federal Wildlife Services division who works in West Seattle. Last summer, we reported on his appearance in the Seola area, where neighbors were raising money for a four-digit “co-op” fee solicited for federal help; this year, Admiral residents seeking to do the same thing distributed flyers like this one. Then today, the agent called us out of the blue, to ask us to get the word out on what he advises people should do to minimize coyote conflict:
That’s a cameraphone photo of agent Aaron and his dog, making an educational appearance at the Highland Park Action Committee meeting back in May. Today, via phone, the message Aaron asked us to get out is the same he shared there: Don’t put your pets in harm’s way. And don’t make any other food source easily available, either. Losing pets to coyotes (or other predators) is a neighborhood problem, not a coyote problem, he said.
He says one big problem is people letting their dogs out, unaccompanied, to relieve themselves in the middle of the night. Even if they’re just sticking to their own yards – a coyote might be out there, “coaxing” the dog to the edge of the yard because the dog gets “riled up” and wants to protect his yard, and that’s when they’ll get snatched.
And he says letting cats roam outdoors is problematic too.
“A lot of these (coyote) ‘issues’ aren’t really issues if you (keep pets indoors),” he says, adding that while sometimes the coyote “situation” is “more serious than (residents) think … in this case, we’re just calming people down. It happens, it’s normal. This is not something that’s worth a coyote being euthanized – as of right now. … People just need to be reminded that their pets are precious and coyotes are out there. It’s natural. Try to keep (your pets) indoors.”
And watch out for other food sources, he advised – bird feeders can attract rodents, which coyotes eat (they might eat the seeds and nuts, too); even an uncovered compost pile can draw coyotes interested in food or produce scraps.
He says, “Just having us out there doesn’t mean we’re going to remove (coyotes),” and insists part of Wildlife Services’ job is “educating people and their cats and dogs.
What does trigger a decision to trap and kill a coyote? If they approach a dog on a leash – which was the case in Seola last year – “that’s bad.” He wouldn’t elaborate on what happened in Seola, but insisted the situation was “bad, very bad.” The situation in West Seattle right now, he reiterated, is “nothing like that.”
So, what to do if you see a coyote?
Same advice we’re been sharing in coyote-sighting stories here for five years. “Yell at it, throw something.” Scare it away, so it maintains a healthy fear of humans. You’ll find that advice in this state publication, too. Overall, Aaron insisted, the state of things right now is not a coyote problem, but a neighborhood problem, and if neighborhoods minimize the food sources, the problem should recede.