West Seattle coyotes: How to handle a close encounter

The latest coyote sighting out of the WSB inbox raises the issue of how to react if you have a close encounter with one. After our last photo-accompanied coyote report, one reader chastised us for the lighthearted headline – as if you would want to play with a coyote. She reminded us that for their safety and ours, you want to do your best to scare them off. That point was raised again by Shawn‘s encounter, which resulted in these photos and note:

I took these pics with my cell phone yesterday around 4 pm while walking my dog, Charlie. The coyote was so close my hands were shaking! It seemed curious, but not threatening. Charlie’s a big dog, though, and does not look like a snack, except maybe to a bear or a whale. It did bark or yip once, which was kind of cool. The coyote followed us for at least a block and was close enough to touch. (I didn’t) These pics were taken on a populated street in High Point; the one that backs up to the cemetery.

As advised in the “coexisting with coyotes” link we often share: “If a coyote ever approaches too closely, pick up small children immediately and act aggressively toward the animal. Wave your arms, throw stones, and shout at the coyote. If necessary, make yourself appear larger by standing up (if sitting) or stepping up onto a rock, stump, or stair. The idea is to convince the coyote that you are not prey, but a potential danger.”

30 Replies to "West Seattle coyotes: How to handle a close encounter"

  • Mike May 31, 2011 (4:21 pm)

    Normally coyotes are not social like that, which makes me believe someone has been feeding them.

  • dbsea May 31, 2011 (4:36 pm)

    I’ve encountered wild coyotes in the SW and they’re usually pretty skittish around people. Now, maybe the urban variety around these parts are more accustomed to people and noise etc.

  • VCubed May 31, 2011 (5:16 pm)

    We’ve quite a lot of coyotes on Bainbridge Island. We can hear the packs some nights, in the less populated parts. Much more unpleasant, we can hear their victims’ shrieks, as well.

    Coyotes must be intimidated, the writer’s correct. Never assume there aren’t a couple more nearby, since they usually travel in packs of 3-4. It’s best to make yourself appear as large and noisy as possible to the one you spot, before the rest decide to check you out.

    Even a larger dog must be protected from coyotes. Never let your lone dog chase one into a wooded area, where other coyotes could be waiting. Using a staff or cane on trails is always a good idea, to intimidate coyotes that get too close, as well as for stability.

    Trash has to be tightly secured (from raccoons, as well!), and cats brought inside by dusk to prevent coyotes from scavenging too close to home.

    Here, we keep an eye on the sky, too, when walking our small-to-medium size dogs on the shore. The eagles and hawks are lovely, and like all predators, they inspire vigilance as well as admiration.

  • onceachef May 31, 2011 (5:24 pm)

    Just curious…at what point do they (coyotes) actually become a problem because of all the “coexisting” we do? Is there a natural predator (other than human) near enough to the cities to keep the population in check or do they coyotes live a short life? I’m not advocating any harm come to them but want to know if/when the city/county will get involved…hopefully no one has to get hurt first.

  • pigeon hill jim May 31, 2011 (6:01 pm)

    My family raised sheep when I was a kid. Coyotes were not cute wildlife to us, they were pests and occasionally they killed our livestock. Individually they scare off pretty easy, however the ones I ran into then were not these slick urbanites I have encountered in my driveway on Pigeon Hill this year. I never encountered any in any numbers but I can guess that would not be fun. As a kid I would scare them off with rocks and yelling, and that worked fine, I think in most cases humans look like more than they want to deal with. Dogs and cats are a different story: coyotes used to try and actually lure my Labrador retriever away from the house to where the pack (presumably) was. It was strange to watch, it was like they were playing together.

  • Mike May 31, 2011 (10:38 pm)

    To answer onceachef, no there are no predators in Seattle other than humans that will keep them in check… we moved all the rest of the food chain out as well. A predator to keep coyotes in check would be a far greater risk to humans than a coyote, I really doubt you want them around your house.
    People leaving garbage unprotected outdoors, cat food / dog food outdoors, cats outdoors, these are all things coyotes and raccoons enjoy. Keep it indoors, you’ll notice a vast difference in the coyote population around here. Keep in mind, the more we develop up the side of the cascades and on the islands, the more you’ll see wildlife moving back into this area and becoming used to humans close by.
    To pigeon hill jim’s comment, true they are considered pests in ranching areas, but if you pull a .22 out and shoot a coyote in city you’ll be more likely to have neighbor call a flood of SPD response to your house. You need to call the Dept. of Wildlife and have them help if they are becoming a threat and/or nuisance/pest.

  • Pv June 1, 2011 (3:48 am)

    Why all the coexisting crap. There are too many people losing their pets and they are a danger to young children. This isn’t the dam wild west. Trap them and take them to a wilderness area of Washington and be done with the reports. They don’t belong in West Seattle or Queen Anne, maybe Maple Valley or Enumclaw. People have become much to sensitive. Yes this was their natural territory a hundred years ago…..SO WHAT. Keeping our children and household pets safe is more important. I am willing to trap them and take them out of West Seattle for free.

  • Grant June 1, 2011 (4:16 am)

    I live above the Eddy Street ravine (sort of behind Zeeks Pizza near Morgan Junction). Over the past 4 years, there have been as many as two separate coyote packs living simultaneously at opposite ends of the ravine. We know this, because at night they would have dueling yap-fests to mark their respective territories.
    “Yowuuu! Yap Yap! Don’t come near my end of the ravine…Yap-yap!” … “Right backatacha! Yip-yip!”
    If I had a nickel for every time they woke us up with their blood-curdling yap-fests, I could probably buy a box of Fran’s grey sea-salt carmel chocolates. :) On one night in particular, I am certain there were close to a dozen coyotes yapping over a kill in the bottom of the ravine — like wild hyenas, their voices are distinctly undog-like and will stir a primal fear in you, to wake up and hear them in chorus at 2:30am. That night, it sounded like 8-12 individual voices chorusing at once. They are LOUD, probably 2-3 times louder than the biggest dog bark you’ve ever heard. When a group of them get together, the sound must travel for a mile or two.
    The day after that huge yap-fest, I walked all the way up and down the ravine (with a friend and a shovel) during the day, as my backyard is essentially the ravine and I had some work to do at the bottom. I saw animal numerous bones and piles of pet fur, plus dozens of fresh coyote tracks, but never did find the den(s) I know are there seasonally.
    In our ravine, the coyotes tend to be most active in the spring; one year they raised pups we could hear yapping while the parents were away during the day. They are transient animals and sometimes move on to different ravines and greenbelts, only to return 6-18 months later to resume a former den site for a month or two.
    In the wild, coyotes would compete with mountain lions and wolves. In the city, we must keep them in check by preventing access to human food rubbish and pets as food sources.
    If you do see a coyotes close by, you do the animal and your neighbours a disservice by not scaring it away. As others mention, wave your arms, yell, throw sticks and stones if necessary — anything to make them feel unwelcome. These animals are *constantly* testing boundaries to see how far they can go. Namby-pamby humans that stop and stare passively are reinforcing to the coyote that it’s safe to hunt around humans. Humans that leave food out for coyotes do something even worse: they condition coyotes to associate our properties with food.
    Coyotes belong in our urban ecosystem. However, when sighted, they must be repelled and made to feel unwelcome for the safety of everyone. Keep pets indoors, even if you live far from the ravines, because they animals travel nightly well-into the city to hunt prey. I once read about a coyote sighting at 2nd Avenue in downtown!
    We love that coyotes live in the bottom of our backyard, but we know that they *hunt to live. They are able to thrive, in part, because less cautious neighbours let their cats wander around outside, etc.

  • datamuse June 1, 2011 (6:56 am)

    Actually, Pv, there weren’t many coyotes here at all until there was a city here. They’re here because there’s a niche for them to fill. And keeping your pets and garbage inside is just common sense; it’s not just coyotes to worry about. (Frankly, I’d be more concerned with raccoons, which I encounter more frequently and are more likely to be aggressive.)
    Animals will move in. I just came back from the D.C. suburbs and my parents, who live within hearing of the Capital Beltway, have seen deer in their yard. That didn’t happen when I was growing up–but the suburbs have expanded all the way to West Virginia, they’re getting comfortable in this new environment.
    There are coyotes living in Washington D.C. (insert your own joke here). They’re well adapted to urban life, and clearly they are filling some sort of niche because there are a lot of them.
    So go ahead, try trapping and removing them. I hope you’re prepared for a long haul, because I’ve seen estimates in the thousands, and once you get rid of one pack, another will move in.
    I also hope you’re prepared to deal with a fairly significant rodent problem in the wake of their absence. They do serve a useful purpose.
    Maple Valley or Enumclaw? How about Issaquah? They have bears and cougars, too!

  • sam-c June 1, 2011 (8:08 am)

    yes- this is a reminder to keep cats inside. I see so many lost cat signs, see cats wandering around..
    I feel so sad for that cats that don’t stand a chance against the coyotes.

  • doggydodo June 1, 2011 (8:16 am)

    They are beautiful, arent’ they!? May be pests, maybe they eat your pets, but they must fill a niche as someone said above — so just don’t be stupid around them… duh, they are pack animal and everyone knows that.

  • TW June 1, 2011 (8:19 am)

    coexisting….ask yourselves: if this was a pack of feral dogs picking off your pets, would that be acceptable?

    Datamuse is right, when I was growing up here in the 60’s there were no coyotes around. They have moved in.

    And if we button up all the garbage, keep all the pets indoors, don’t leave out food, in other words, take away their easy food source, what happens then? They are just going to go away? They are going to lay down and die? Or start being a little more aggressive?

  • Cowpie June 1, 2011 (9:12 am)

    TW….I will bet the Coyotes were here way before white people started showing up in the area. We drove them away and with our endless population growth they’re being pushed back to survive.

  • public administrator June 1, 2011 (9:24 am)

    As numerous as coyote sightings are in West Seattle, is this really news because someone has sent in a digital photo?

    • WSB June 1, 2011 (9:35 am)

      We continue to report coyote sightings that we receive. It’s prompted some fascinating discussions. Perhaps someday soon they will be so common (as became the case with missing/found pet reports, and before that, requests for reader recommendations of local businesses, which spawned the WSB Forums in the pre-social-media-prevalence days) that they move on to their own page or section. As your editor, I don’t think that day’s here yet – TR

  • TW June 1, 2011 (9:33 am)

    Cowpie…so were the cougars and the bears. What of it?

  • Joe June 1, 2011 (9:34 am)

    I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing one up close and personal yet. If I was out with my 6 month old and 6 year old and one got that close to me I don’t think I would be picking up a rock. I would be using my 9mm. We may need to coexist with them but that doesn’t mean I need to take a chance like that when it comes to my kids. Coyotes are never alone so if you think there is only one around watching you then you are mistaken.

  • Cheri June 1, 2011 (10:55 am)

    I have posted this several times before so PLEASE read. After losing our cat to coyotes, note, our cat not food or garbage out I made calls to all. The Humane Society 296 7387 takes NO responsibility which moved me onto the Fish and Wildlife 425 775 1311. The responce from them was, Washington ANIMAL TRAPPING ACT, INITIATIVE 713 was on the Nov.7,2000 election ballot and was approved by the people of Wash. St. This protects killing or trapping of wild animals so therefore the citizens can NOT take any measures to rid the area of the coyotes. The suggestion I recieved was to keep my pets inside. My cat was fifteen years old and had been out in our yard all of these years, not knowing at that time these animals were out there and a threat I was shocked to know so many are out there in our neighborhoods. Just look on the pets MISSING and you will see how many cats daily are missing, this is a fact and they are the coyotes dinners. The Wild Life said only if they received so many calls that they would have to check into these complaints would they do anything. PLEASE make those calls!!!!!!! Soon it will be you or your child not able to fend and then what? Soon they will carry diseases from eating rats or breeding with our domestic dogs causing a larger problem. MAKE THOSE CALLS each time you have a sighting. 1 425 775 1311.
    Thanks for reading.

  • Paula in Issaquah June 1, 2011 (11:19 am)

    My husband has had a coyote follow while walking our big dog, too. It was really strange to have it follow for a good hundred yards or so. Then Rob decided that was enough and just turned and told it to scat with a wave of the arm. The coyote took off. Our 2 smaller dogs will bark at them, but they know better and only do that from inside the house.
    Our coyote sightings flux with the rabbit population. And no one leaves their garbage out or the wildlife (coyote, bear and raccoon) help themselves.

  • JenF June 1, 2011 (11:21 am)

    Thank you Cheri! I’m calling today. I ran into- almost literally- a coyote running down our street (Othello at 34th) at 11 am last week. There were small children playing in a front yard that the coyote ran right by. I yelled and clapped my hands, which did make him pick up speed. Everyone please call in your sightings and scare them away whenever you see them. Everytime you passively observe they become less fearful of us. I have had outdoor cats my whole life, and I feel I have the right to let them out. They keep down the rodent population. My cat is now restricted to going out for about an hour a day in the middle of the day, and we both hate it.

  • datamuse June 1, 2011 (11:41 am)

    And if we button up all the garbage, keep all the pets indoors, don’t leave out food, in other words, take away their easy food source, what happens then? They are just going to go away? They are going to lay down and die? Or start being a little more aggressive?
    Chances are they’ll go back to more natural food sources, such as rodents and eggs. Don’t leave food sources available and they’ll stop associating food with people. Which is what we want.
    Yes, there were coyotes here before white people, but not nearly as many. Good luck getting rid of them; they exist quite successfully in far more urbanized areas than Seattle (Chicago, for instance).
    Some of y’all are talking as though wildlife exists somewhere “out there”. Good luck with that. The more urbanized our region gets, the more wildlife encounters we’ll have, not less. And wildlife has no interest in or respect for borders on a map. The growth in coyote populations in urban areas indicates that they are well suited to living in them. Get rid of the ones we have and others will take their place.
    JenF, coyotes keep down rodent populations, too. If coyotes are becoming a problem, it’s because we’re unintentionally encouraging them. What, y’all are going to leave garbage and food outside even if coyotes magically disappear? We’ve also got rats, possums, mice, feral cats, and raccoons, you know. And we’d have more of them if we didn’t have coyotes.

  • One More Observation June 1, 2011 (11:58 am)

    I think I’m more afraid of the dude walking around with his kids and a 9mm than the coyotes. I’m just sayin’.

  • Paul June 1, 2011 (1:50 pm)

    racoons are scary too !

  • furor scribendi June 1, 2011 (2:54 pm)

    I was also one who ‘chastised’ (albeit gently!) the previous WSB story, for the sane reasons expressed above. Coyotes shouldn’t be made to feel too comfortable – – if you see one, scare it away.

    Just like crows, coyotes can recognize people and will stay away from hostile people, which also means they will gravitate to people who appear docile, small, or unassuming.

    Also, getting rid of the ones we have will keep them from reproducing, Datamuse. Their population growth speaks to their encroaching on areas well suited to ambivalent humans. On the other hand, we can’t take the law into our own hands including discharging firearms in city limits. Call the number Cheri provided if you get a close encounter, people.

  • KBear June 1, 2011 (3:02 pm)

    Coyotes belong outside. House cats do not. You’re not taking proper care of your beloved pet if you allow it to roam the neighborhood.

  • Wendy Hughes-Jelen June 1, 2011 (4:25 pm)

    We live in High Point and joke about our nightly “trolling for coyotes” when walking our small Italian greyhound. Our last up-close encounter was about 3 weeks ago when it was almost nose to nose with my dog because it came up behind us and the dog started pulling behind me (on a 6′ leash only) as if she was sniffing a bush and didn’t want to be dragged off. They were going to sniff noses. I think it is just curious also. I think it’s ridiculous that even with a dog this close to me it wants to come up to me. This coyote was the younger one of three we know of living nearby. It took A LOT OF CHASING – my husband had to yell at it and run across the street and up a long driveway to chase it back into the greenbelt. Do you have any idea how ridiculous it is we have to look over our shoulders – actively – every few hundred yards to make sure there isn’t one behind us?
    This morning I was walking earlier than usual (6 am) and had to hiss/stomp at a large raccoon walking by the market garden. It just went down into the bioswale, we walked by, and by the time I turned around it was back on the sidewalk headed east.

  • Bill Bacon June 1, 2011 (5:00 pm)

    Come to think of it, I think there are far less squirrels and rats in Lincoln Park than there were, say, ten years ago. I saw my first coyote in Lincoln Park about five years ago. I haven’t seen a rat since.

  • Bruce Moorhead June 1, 2011 (6:44 pm)

    Years ago at about this time of year, while horseback riding with a friend and our two large dogs through the forest behind our homes, a coyote abruptly appeared parallel to us somewhat like this, on top of a large down-log that closely adjoined the trail we were on. It walked the length of the log just off to the right of us, then jumped down and adjoined us on the ground for a short distance and disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Neither of our dogs (nor horses) showed much interest or concern. I suspected then that it likely had pups nearby, and was merely ushering us along and beyond where they were, just as I’d suspect might also be the case with this animal now.

  • SVC June 16, 2011 (12:53 am)

    Thanks Cheri, I’ll call that number in the morning. We never leave garbage or any food for animals out. The coyotes slaughtered our cat this morning not 5 feet from our front door. No KBear we did not keep our cat hostage in our home. I feel he had a right to be in our yard. My advise is throw the rocks at the coyotes not just in there direction, try to hit them! We have lived above Gatewood Elementary School for 24 years and watched the coyote population explode while the populations of racoons, possums and squirrels decline. What happens when the coyotes run out of those food sources? What’s the next easiest prey around here? Surely some relocation is better than just waiting for them to attack a human or a dog on a leash.

  • Ashley June 16, 2011 (9:12 pm)

    Saw a coyote around 8:30 pm on Myrtle just before it turns into 21st across from Sanislo Elementary on Monday, 6.13. It waited for our car to go by to perhaps continue across the street.

Sorry, comment time is over.