Coexisting with coyotes: What you might not know (or remember)

(Editor’s note: After this recent WSB report and this recent Magnolia incident, it seemed like a good time to revisit the coyote question – as in, they’re living among us; should you be worried? The University of Washington is working with WSB and other small local news organizations again this semester, and one of their student journalists took on the assignment.)


(July 2008 photo from Vanessa, taken near Lincoln Park)
University of Washington News Lab

Jilly Eddy, a Gatewood resident, says she got “the heebie-jeebies” earlier this month when she found half a dead cat on her neighbor’s walkway.

All the signs pointed to coyotes, but before researching the topic, she had no idea they lived in her area. In the middle of this thriving city, it’s easy to forget that wild animals live just around the corner, or in some cases closer than that. Raccoons and squirrels are common, but it may come as a surprise that coyotes also call Seattle home.

Eddy’s property is on the edge of a large ravine, a common place for coyotes to live.

Kim Chandler, sergeant with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, called these greenbelts “coyote superhighways.”

He gets calls about coyotes several times a week, but tells worried citizens not to lose any sleep over it.

The Seattle Animal Shelter also gets calls about coyotes a few times a month, but refers most callers to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“With any wildlife, if they’re injured, killed or diseased, we’ll pick them up,” said Ann Graves, enforcement supervisor at the shelter.

She recommends the standard tips: “Don’t approach it, steer clear, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them.”

Coyotes are indigenous in the area and protected by law. Unless the coyote is damaging crops or domestic animals on your property, a state license is required to hunt or trap them.

(WSB video of a coyote nosing around a Fauntleroy home in July 2008)
Occasionally the Department of Fish and Wildlife will trap aggressive coyotes, but it does not regularly control the coyote population.

“Very rarely do (coyotes) go after kids or people,” Chandler said. “Most coyote behavior is food-oriented. Period. That’s all they do: hunt and breed and sleep.”

On the other hand, people need to be educated. Chandler suggests reading the article, “Living with Coyotes,” which you can find on the Animal Shelter’s Web site.

“It’s very important we have an understanding with people that don’t know much about coyotes,” Chandler said. “You have to keep your garbage cleaned up. You can’t leave a bowl of pet food out on the deck — you’re just inviting trouble. Not only coyotes but raccoons and other rodents. It’s a must.”

After reading the article, Eddy wondered why she hadn’t heard all this before. Now, she’s doing her part by letting her cat out only during the day and considering fencing her yard. However, she notices that people leave out pet food or bird seed, unintentionally attracting critters for coyotes to prey on.

“It’s not going to work if I’m the only one in the neighborhood who’s doing something,” Eddy said, adding that she hopes her neighbors become more aware of how to live with coyotes.

Eddy suggested educating people through mailings that come from Seattle Public Utilities, since coyotes are attracted to leftovers in the garbage or compost bin.

Andy Ryan, who’s in media relations at Seattle Public Utilities, said the garbage cans they provide have locking lids and shouldn’t cause problems if closed properly.

“Basically it boils down to common sense,” said Chandler.

It’s true. With a few lifestyle modifications, residents can discourage coyotes from coming onto their property. It’s up to everyone to educate themselves and take action within their communities to work together to maintain a peaceful human-coyote coexistence.

Here are some things residents can do to protect themselves from coyotes (courtesy of the Department of Fish and Wildlife):

-Never feed coyotes
-Keep garbage cans secured and upright
-Prevent access to fruit and compost
-Feed dogs and cats indoors
-Prevent the buildup of feeder foods under bird feeders
-Keep dogs and cats indoors at night
-Keep shrubs pruned so coyotes can’t hide in them
-Build a coyote-proof fence
-Keep poultry in secure pens.
-Remove or bury dead livestock

DFW also made a video:

The complete “Living with Coyotes” article is on the Seattle Animal Shelter Web site:

WSB coverage of coyotes is archived here (newest to oldest)
(EMILY FAIRBROOK is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)

22 Replies to "Coexisting with coyotes: What you might not know (or remember)"

  • CB January 17, 2010 (10:03 am)

    Its time for a serious effort to trap these coyotes and move them to the wilderness.

  • Jesse January 17, 2010 (10:23 am)

    Why? We do loose the odd pet now and then, which is sad. But they are one of the primary predators of rodents and other nuisances in our area.

  • Gail January 17, 2010 (10:34 am)

    I saw a coyote running north on 36th SW towards Charlestown about 15 mins ago.

  • JH January 17, 2010 (10:48 am)

    I love my backyard coyotes (my house backs into Schmitz Park). It’s so wonderful to hear them every night! They don’t need to be trapped, and that’ll never happen anyway. We can totally co-exist with them. I do! They’re in my yard all the time. They are very skittish-as soon as they see me, they leave. I’ve done yardwork with them on the outskirts of my yard. No biggie. People who let their cats outside are taking a chance and can’t blame anyone else. I find cat hair in their droppings every once in awhile-keep your cats indoors! They aren’t a danger to humans. It’s all part of the animal chain…cats eat birds, coyotes eat cats, etc…it’s in your power to protect your cats. Okay I’ll get off my soapbox now!

  • ltfd January 17, 2010 (10:53 am)

    “Its time for a serious effort to trap these coyotes and move them to the wilderness”.

    Don’t you mean it’s time for a serious effort to keep these dogs fenced and these cats indoors (so they don’t destroy the song bird population)?

  • orcmid January 17, 2010 (11:22 am)

    I like this report for the way that it ties in resources, other information, and also West Seattle context. It is another demonstration for me of what a local, social-web-based community journal provides that is very unique.

    I’ve just recently learned that we have urban coyotes, having only met raccoons and possum along with smaller varmints and birds around my home. We will remember not to leave food standing out that is intended only for a local patrolling cat.

    It is uncomfortable to think about coyotes (and the occasional bald eagles passing by) as predators. I’m thankful that our pets are all small and stay indoors. I sometimes wonder how unnatural that is for a housepet, even one that has never lived outdoors.

  • camp long neighbor January 17, 2010 (11:33 am)

    I’m more afraid of the pitbulls in the neighborhood than the coyotes.

  • Dwight Gaut January 17, 2010 (11:44 am)

    Trap and move is a big waste of time because it’s not just individual coyotes, it is an eco-system. The coyotes that live here keep other coyotes away but once you trap and move, then NEW coyotes are free to step in.
    I’ve a sister and brother-in-law who are forever trapping rabbits and moving them away from their garden. And yet, oddly, they are never rabbit-free.

  • Walter January 17, 2010 (11:51 am)

    Today is the first time we’ve seen one during the day. Corner of SW Hinds and 33rd Ave SW just now. It’s been about 6 months since we’ve seen this particular one and he must have come down from 36th SW then over the Admiral land slide on his way to cross Admiral. Usually we see him coming up over the slide area around sunset.

  • Jtk January 17, 2010 (1:46 pm)

    The coyotes were here first. We encringed on THEIR land.

  • Chuck and Sally\'s Van Man January 17, 2010 (2:22 pm)

    I am a frequent walker at Lincoln Park and have noticed a huge decrease in the squirrel population from what it was two or three years ago when these sightings became more frequent. Hopefully the coyotes are doing the same with the rat pop.

    I agree with the other posters that these songdogs are the perfect motivation for cat owners to keep their cats inside; outdoor cats are prolific hunters and do great damage to wild bird populations.

    I do have to give props to one such outdoor cat I saw hunting in a backyard ravine recently. He was perched in a tree overlooking a thick ivy patch, intently studying something below. With a pounce, he came out with a rat almost a third its own size. Like a leopard with a freshly killed gazelle, he bounded back up the hill, presumably to go show its owner his prize. To imagine that precious kitty later nuzzling up to its owner was an amusing thought.


  • Melissa January 17, 2010 (2:42 pm)

    We were trying to figure out how to lure them to our yard with the promise of a kitty buffet. We’re tired of having to clean up cat poo from the garden beds and under the maple. We thought that maybe flashing lights and “Free Kitties for Coyotes” with a big neon arrow under it might do the trick. But maybe we need something more subtle…..

  • newnative January 17, 2010 (3:05 pm)

    Individuals may help their own neighborhoods stay coyote-free, but there are quite a few people that deliberately feed the critters. I saw someone who lives near a greenbelt hand feeding raccoons. I know someone that grows plants to attract outdoor cats to her unfenced yard. there will always be “animal lovers” that will pass up common sense to fulfill a weird ideal of caretaking. don’t get me started on all the food trash near the grocery stores.

  • JH January 17, 2010 (6:58 pm)

    Hey Chuck and Sally, I’ve only noticed a decrease in the rats in my yard (my house backs into Schmitz Park so have lots of critters visiting-just in case you’re wondering why I’ve had rats!). I can’t even remember the last time I saw a rat. The squirrels were all over my bird feeders today, so they’re at least around my neighborhood! Those darn things can open the “squirrel free” feeders…

  • ongaurd January 17, 2010 (7:38 pm)

    The next coyote to enter my yard will not leave on it’s own. I will not try to be their friend or allow them to terrorize my pets. Isn’t it interesting how people put up with coyotes but want to kill rats.

  • JH January 18, 2010 (12:31 am)

    Wow ongaurd (misspelling?), what are you going to do to that “next” coyote? Killing them is illegal. What kind of pets are they terrorizing in your yard? Cats? Keep your cats indoors. Small dogs? Supervise them. Good thing that it’s rare to see coyotes, because you sound angry and sound like you’re about to break the law.

  • Mike January 18, 2010 (5:38 am)

    ongaurd, the next person I see terrorizing natural habitat will be going to jail and paying big fines. BTW, how are you doing neighbor?

  • D.A. January 18, 2010 (9:37 am)

    I agree with JTK. Coyotes and other wild animals were here first! We invaded their land, not the other way around. Get over yourself and learn to co-exist.

  • samson January 18, 2010 (9:59 am)

    I need your advice:

    my neighbor across the street on 42nd Ave SW (Arbor Heights) – I have seen Coyote once recently and i figured out why my neighbor was leaving the couple bowls of cat foods – NO WONDER she invites many wildlife animals

    who shall i speak with? Since she doesnt care about our neighborhood. she cares about her yard, her driveway, and her life. she doesnt like anyone to park near her driveway. she welcomes any animals come and go. do i need to bring my rake out every morning at 530a to get into my vehicle with rake? no!

  • Gabriele January 18, 2010 (4:50 pm)

    Leave the coyotes alone pls. As it says on the website, they are more afraid of us then the other way around and they take care of a lot of rodents. As for cat owners, keep your pets inside and they’ll be safe, it’s pretty simple.

    As for the rake comment, that created some funny visuals…

  • Jilly Edd January 19, 2010 (12:32 pm)

    A big Thank You to Emily for doing the research and writing of this excellent article on our coyote situation. Being aware is the first important step, what we all do is the next. It’s important to be respectful of life and it’s important to co-exist with wildlife. Be aware, share information with others, be part of the solution in a loving and caring way. Thanks, Jilly

  • Junior January 21, 2010 (8:25 pm)

    I’m hear to tell you that if one of these coyotes is captured, there isn’t going to be any relocating. F&W guys will more than likely kill it on the spot and be done with it. Not much sense in hauling one of these things somewhere else to become a problem for another location and this is a learned behavior that isn’t easily unlearned.

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