Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The plight of the city coyote

Don't hate me because I'm beautifulA few weeks ago there was a bit of hubbub about one of the coyotes that lives in the city of Seattle, namely in Discovery Park. This park includes 500 acres of heavily treed land and is partially owned by the Navy. It is a very popular park used by many Seattle residents for running, hiking or picnicking.

Apparently, the Navy thought it would be a good idea to set up leg traps to capture the animal, citing their concern over the safety of the residents of the military housing on Fort Lawton that abuts the park. This plan was shut down by the City of Seattle when the surrounding community complained. It seemed fairly irresponsible to me to have traps where children and dogs might accidentally roam.

Next up on the plan (and this one got all the press), was the assigning of a Naval marksman to come in and shoot the coyote. Needless to say that this plan was also scrapped, as city Parks employees and area residents went on the lookout for any armed individuals in the park. That seemed like an accident waiting to happen. The USDA Wildlife Services (apparently acting on behalf of the Navy) scratched that idea off their list.

Following that brilliant move, the next plan was to trap the animal and then euthanize it. But that plan didn't last more than a day or two at most.

Finally, the USDA gave the coyote a reprieve, allowing it to roam without being molested by crazed humans. It is believed there is more than one coyote living in the park and there are a number of urban coyotes that live in the city of Seattle (including some by me).

So, what was warranting all this attention? Well, the coyote's biggest offense so far had been killing a cat and chasing a small dog. Perhaps the cat's owner was just pissed that they couldn't get $45,480 from the coyote's owner, well, because there isn't one.

Now, I shall turn the saga to you - what do you think should be done with city coyotes? Although this spectacle certainly didn't have the excitement of the coyote that was chased through Manhattan, nor does Seattle have the coyote population that Chicago does (estimated at several thousand), these city coyotes are certainly adapting to urban environments and I'm sure we'll be hearing more about these types of conflicts in the future as suburban sprawl pushes out the wildlife.


Miss Sub said...

Viva coyotes! I was so excited when I heard that one had been spotted in Disco Park since all previous reports were that there weren't any. Even though they've been seen in the much less lush Woodland Park.

I think nature is freaking amazing. And people shouldn't let their cats outside anyway. The songbirds will be much happier with coyotes as their protectors.

Anonymous said...

We have lived in our home for almost 10 years. Its in the country - but not isolated....we have a growing problem with coyotes. So much so that I've had to call animal control to find out unless they are threatening livestock or children I have no rights. Meaning if I had a gun I could shoot it if the coyote was attacking my child or livestock - they actually have to have their jaws on them though in my part of CT. I know that these creatures don't understand property lines but I also don't like playing with my little boys in the yard (large) and having these things creeping around then having to take the kids inside on perfect outside days. We've actually had them walking through the yard in the daytime. I understand they have a purpose - but what about all the lovely wild bunnies that used to come in our yard at sundown and bunnies in over a year. And its upsetting enough to see the bodies on road when they get hit by cars....I mean it does look like a dog.

One solution might be to use the sharpshooter to tranquilize the creature, then have a vet administer a kind of birth control (like depro provera for dogs) and release. They wouldn't have to do the entire pop. of them but it would reduce the numbers quickly.

Unknown said...

We live on a state highway about 4 miles outside of a medium sized town in upstate NY - definitely not in an urban area. We have lots of coyotes, but they've never bothered us. They don't come into the yard during the day and we seem to have more than enough small game to keep them happy. If we were in an urban environment, I might feel more conflicted, but I don't really have a problem with them. I'm not sure how well a sterilization plan would work in practice - we have one in place here for deer and we have deer coming out our ears.

DC said...

I hear that Homeland Security is also now involved in the matter since someone sent them this photo. The new plan is to bomb the hell out of the entire Pacific Northwest until the coyote threat has been completely eliminated.

Lisa Zahn said...

Wild animals in urban areas is a tricky issue. In "nature", all animals have predators. Who is the coyote's predator in the city? Probably only humans. I hate to see animal lives taken just for the purpose of eliminating/decreasing their population, but obviously we can't let this get out of hand and endanger children, etc. Would a coyote go after a human? I don't even know, but people will have to do something if that's possible and the coyote pop. increases.

Chile said...

Wildlife populations in urban areas are a growing problem, primarily because of human incursion on their former habitat. Coyotes happen to be one of the most adaptable critters and easily live in and amongst us. Generally, they are not to be feared although I'm sure this story in the local paper got folks worked up.

If you are concerned about being approached by a coyote when out walking, take pepper spray with you. (The Canadian Mounties determined that pepper spray is more effective than mace against dogs.) If necessary - as in about to be attacked - spray the animal. Aim the spray into the mouth as it will irritate the lining and the animal will likely leave. Avoid spraying the eyes unless you intend to blind the animal permanently (which would be cruel).

We see coyotes regularly in city limits, even in our own neighborhood (and yard!) Best way to keep them out of your yard is to make sure you don't leave pet food or water outside. And don't let domestic cats run free; they are tasty morsels for wily coyotes.

The idea of a Navy sharpshooter is so incredibly ridiculous, I can't believe they suggested it publicly. So is a leg trap. Sheesh. You northerners....

Anonymous said...

We live in a well relatively rural area outside city limits. We have coyotes running around on the ridge by us. Occassionally they creep thru. Along with the foxes, raccoons, skunks ,Fishers, and the Moose..yes a roughly 1,500 pound moose-looking in at me thru a patio window. The deer population is so huge it looks like cattle grazing in our yard sometimes. the bear is probably the one thing that scares the daylights out of us because a nieghbor had one go right thru the door into the house to find food. does it bother me-well only sometimes. The cute little bunnies and the wonderful looking deer do more harm and damage than the other animals put together.

Oldnovice said...

We don't get much wildlife in our neighborhood, but there's a small woods around our health club and we've seen coyotes through the window while doing laps. Quite the distraction! :-)

I vote that we try and live in harmony with them.

Anonymous said...

where I live, wild life is part of normal life. When there is a bear on the playground, the children have indoor recess. When there are wild turkey in my yard, it is loud. When there are deer by the brook, we watch and wonder. When coyotes run across the road, we slow down a little.

I do not live in the country. I live in a suburban town in CT. But, in the past 5 years more and more wildlife has been mingling with our life - why, b/c of development, I'm sure - and also better regulation about hunting (that's what gave the wild turkeys there come back!).

All I am saying is that everyone here is adjusting - it is the cultural expectation that we adjust - that we love the wildlife and want our children to see it.

Why should city dwellers have a different expectation.

Rechelle said...

Bizarre and hilarious. Have they tossed around the idea of nuking the park? Has anyone thought of napalm yet? Maybe they should bulldoze the entire thing and put in a new subdivision.

Anonymous said...

We need to remember that *we* are encroaching on *their* territory. We are the ones who are overpopulated, not them.The sooner we get our own population and urban sprawl under control, the sooner we can leave the poor wildlife alone.

As for cats killing the songbirds, they aren't to blame. Cats lived in the wild long before they were domesticated. Songbirds didn't suffer then. Songbirds are dying because of cell phones, not cats. If we want to save the songbirds (and honeybees and all sorts of other wildlife), we need to get rid of all the wireless devices, such as cell phones, Wi-Fi, etc.

Anonymous said...

I'm in CT also, outside any city limit, mostly old farm lands now being developed slowly. I have to say I'm torn on this one, I don't believe in killing them but at the same time they do make me very nervous (although that also applies to all the neighbors stray dogs that come into my yard as well). I don't know there is any one solution but do believe loss of habitat and no real predator are part of the problem. Overall, mixed feelings, all life has a purpose in the balance of nature, unless they attack or threaten we should just let them be.

May said...

I'm all for nature encroaching on our cities. ^__^

Anonymous said...

Anon in CT - where I grew up (small town Iowa) we didn't have coyotes that I know of, but we did have occasional packs of feral dogs. Now I live in Minnesota, where there are wolves in some of the suburbs - but you wouldn't know it, they're very shy of people.

All in all, I'd choose the wild critters. They're way less likely to attack people than formerly-tame dogs. And you shouldn't let your cats and small dogs outside anyway - aside from coyotes & raccoons eating them, urban cats have the same urban predator as coyote, which is people driving cars.

ruchi said...

My concern about coytotes would mainly be if they were killing other native creatures. There was a very sad article in the NY Times a few months ago about cats decimating the bird population in certain areas of the country. But I think it sounds like there's not much reason to try and "control" the coyote population here.

Anonymous said...

If we keep obliterating natural habitats, where do people think the animals are going to go? The fact that people see this as a 'problem' is maddening - this is an obvious result of our governments mismanagement of wildlife areas. Leave the poor creatures alone, this is only the beginning of their struggle.

PS. I laughed out loud ad DC's comment/photo. I really think he should have run for president.

katecontinued said...

I would be delighted if rats were controlled by coyotes. Living in a coastal area with lots of fruit trees, restaurants and mild climate. Last year the rats went after all the vines on my fence. Disgusting. A natural predator would be great.

QT said...

Just have to throw my .02 in here...there have been several studies that show coyotes only have as many pups as the food in their territory will allow. When you kill one coyote, a coyote from a neighboring territory will have a larger litter the next breeding season - because it can, because its territory has increased. Wolves operate in much the same fashion.

We need to learn to live with animals. I'm sorry, your "little dog" should not be outside unsupervised for long periods of time - we had a neighbor whose yorkie was attacked and badly injured by an eagle, of all things.

Fawns are the number one food source for coyotes and even foxes, if they get lucky. The massive deer overpopulation here in the midwest can be directly attributed to the loss of predators.

I would have to imagine that a coyote attacking a person is quite rare. Given that over 3 million people are bitten ANNUALLY by domestic dogs (according to the CDC), I think the fear is misplaced.

AKfitknit said...

We don't have coyote roaming the streets of downtown Anchorage, but we do have moose and bears. My four year old was outside playing and came running inside all excited to tell me there was a moose outside, and when I went to look, sure enough, there were two of them. I also had to call a neighbor one time because her 5 yr old son was leaning out their kitchen window, feeding his sandwich to a moose, which the moose seemed quite happy to eat.


Anonymous said...

According to one estimate, there are as many as 5,000 coyotes in the city of Los Angeles. Yet, there are fewer than 10 coyote attacks on people a year in the entire state of California.

Greenpa said...

Yike. Take a look here, you parents.

Urban coyotes start out by eating doggies and kitties, and garbage. Eventually, when nobody bothers them- they move on to bigger soft meat.

Yes, they do. Look it up. Often? No.

BoysMom said...

Sure, right now, this coyote just took out a cat or small dog or two. How would you feel if it were your chickens? Your goat? Your food and pets?

We had a coyote problem--walking over snowbanks into the fenced yard--one winter. A local trapper with a noose-type trap took care of them. The first trapped critter wasn't a coyote, though, it was the dog belonging to the 'Our dog doesn't roam' neighbor. We'd warned the neighbors--the others listened and kept their roamers in. Dog wasn't hurt, neighbors learned a lesson. That type of trap was picked particularly because it didn't hurt the trapped animal and it was a rural residential area.

Rosa--all the ranchers around here carry continously because of the wolves. The wolves are coming into people's yards to kill their dogs. You may not have a problem with them where you are now, but let them alone a while and you will. We can't shoot 'em legally, have to call Game and Fish (and they have to go through the Feds) if they attack, but you can be darned sure that when the wolves attack a child they'll be shot. And there's not a judge and jury out here that'll convict.

I'm not saying there's not a place for wild preditors (national parks, national forest, for example), but the place isn't around people. Especially unarmed/untrained people. We're basicly defenseless if unarmed. The only thing that makes us not be prey is our guns/bows/spears/knives, and our ability to use them. We don't have teeth and claws and we can't outrun the preditors. If there's a preditor of any sort in your backyard, it's already desensitized to humans enough to be dangerous to you and your family and livestock.
I don't know what's up with city people and their disrespect for nature. Nature is red in tooth and claw. Do you prefer to eat or be eaten? In nature, there isn't a third choice.

Anonymous said...

We live in a rural area. While we do have alot of different wildlife (including coyotes, wolves and bears)we just try to remember we are in their territory. We keep close track of our dog, remind our youngin to come inside if a wolf, coyote or bear comes into sight. Trashcans are kept in garage so it doesn't atract's just alot of common sense stuff we do. Even that doesn't insure something bad won't happen. I'm more afraid of the stray dog population in our area. The area has become a drop off spot for unwanted dogs and cats-which is sad.

Wendy said...

Leave them alone! We have destroyed their "natural" habitats and we wonder why they are invading ours! And to all of those people who cite wild creatures attacking little children and that we should kill them to prevent a POSSIBLE attack, I ask, why are human children so much more valuable than animal children? Yes, I would fight to the death any person or animal who threatened my children, but I would NOT kill an animal for fear it might decide to hurt one of my children. That's just ridiculous. People do far more harm to other people than animals do. So, should I kill all of my neighbors, because they might, someday injure or kill one of my children?

I teach my children to be wary of stray animals and wild animals ... and people they don't know.

Theresa said...

We have coyotes in our rural residential area. Like Wendy, I agree that we have moved into THEIR territory, not vice versa, and we will adapt to them. We share the planet with ALL beings.

Greenpa said...

Children have been killed by coyotes. In suburbs.

It will happen again- pretty much guaranteed; and directly correlated to coyote numbers- and how unwary they are of people.

Apart from anything else- have you thought about the effect on your community? If your community votes in favor of the occasional random child sacrifice- I think you will see neighbors at war, very quickly. Your quality of life will not benefit.

We need to think well beyond how cool wild predators are, and how badly they've been treated in the past. How about the future? ALL experience is; and I mean ALL - "hands off" leads to increasing problems- then public sentiment swings hard the other way.

Today's NYT - NJ deer cull. The deer problem is one I'm intimately familiar with. Bambi is a forest killer, when over-abundant. Community wars over deer are quite common- and now, coyotes, too.

I live in the woods. I love my deer. And my trees. And my coyotes. And my kids.

This whole argument is another one that is very ancient- and never going away. And is always going to be highly emotional.

Think about this, though. People who have just moved to the suburbs, or country- and have just started to see wildlife, usually think they're really cool. People who have lived with animals for years- rarely have qualms about some kind of control measures. Almost universally. Why would that be?

DC said...

Homeland Security has finished its investigation into coyote attacks and concluded that the coyotes have been framed. The real threat, they have determined, is a coyote look-alike that resides somewhere in the desert southwest. It travels around the country on the back of an Extracycle bike terrorizing country folk and city-dwellers alike. To some, this news will come as a great shock. To others, it is what we have long expected. Behold: the face of the true perpetrator. (You may want to shield your children's eyes before you click on the link to this vicious beast.)

BerryBird said...

I feel very strongly that rebounding predator populations are a good thing. I live in a northeastern city, and have seen coyotes in my backyard in the day time. I was thrilled! We need them, to keep out of control deer populations in check. Pets and small children should not be outdoors unsupervised anyway; risks to non-native pets from native wildlife would be a terrible reason to kill coyotes.

To anonymous, domestic cats do kill millions of songbirds every year. Unlike coyote, domestic cats are not native to North America--they never lived in the wild here, until we humans unleashed them.

Most fears of coyote are completely unfounded. Most coyote are terrified of humans. However, urban coyote populations in southern California are changing their behavior as they become more and more acclimated to humans, and these populations are becoming somewhat dangerous. Unfortunately a huge part of the problem is all the people who feed the coyote. There was the tragic case of the four year old girl who was mauled in her front yard in Tahoe in 1997; another adult city resident was bit on the hand the same month as he was feeding a coyote. Coyote are smart. If we teach them to come to us for food, they will. Despite the problems with urban coyote populations in southern California, I could only find one record of a human fatality statewide in 25 years (1978-2003), which is a pretty damn low risk.

Some action in Seattle may be warranted now, though, as a preventative measure to ward off problems of southern Cali variety. Education is hugely important here. People need to know that if they feed coyotes, they are putting their entire community at risk, as well as the wild animals they profess to love. Agressive animals are destroyed. Anyone feeding coyotes should be sentenced to a hefty fine and some targeted community service. As unpalatable as I find trapping, research has shown that it is the most effective means of sub/urban coyote control. Trapping as few as 2-5 individuals from an area is often enough to put fear back into populations, allowing the rest of the animals to learn to be wild again.

I am sorry to hijack your comments like this, Crunchy. I think you hit a nerve :)

Anonymous said...

Coyotes should be trapped in baited cages and then relocated to a less populated area where they can live normal coyote lives away from human contact.

Greenpa said...

Berrybird- I agree with 95% of what you said there- well put.

I wouldn't even dare to raise THIS point-it's inflammatory- except it's one I know a good deal about, and I think the readers of this blog deserve to know.

The "cats eat millions of birds" thing is bad rap.

The problem is, it's a very subtle half-truth; and the conversation quickly moves to cat-lovers screaming at bird lovers screaming at cat lovers- and I've never seen a good description by a trained scientist of what actually goes on.

Just a couple facts here: Felis domesticus has been a thoroughly acclimated wild animal in North America since about 1650. At least. Maine Coon Cats might actually go back to the Vikings. The idea that cats don't belong here is moot- they ARE here- as wild as wild can be; and the birds adapted to them long ago.

The thing is- we don't SEE the truly wild ones. So we don't really believe in them. Feral domestics are as wild and elusive as a lynx. What we SEE is the alley cat, eating that baby robin in our back yard. Bingo, fireworks.

What we ALSO don't see is: the cute little deer mice (Peromyscus)- eating baby robins, and eggs- all night long. And the rats. Nocturnal. And we don't the weasels eating birds- because the cats replaced the weasels hundreds of years ago.

The reality is: we see cats eating DUMB baby birds, who had really bad parents, not capable of protecting them. There ARE millions of them- every year. Always have been. If the cats didn't eat them- something else would. True.

Wipe out the cats; you will get huge mouse and rat population increases- and they'll still eat all the dumb birds available.

The smart robins- are not threatened.

Greenpa said...

One more bit of arcane mammalogy, having to do with "introduced" species.

Red foxes, now- those belong here, right?

Nope. Sort of. Apparently there WAS a native red fox- but it was quickly replaced- Virginia to Alaska- by European red foxes, introduced for hunting. DNA analysis these days has trouble finding any trace of the original fox.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Good gravy, Greenpa. Did someone put a quarter in your jukebox?

Greenpa said...

Crunch. lol. yep, exactly. Maybe 50 cents! Hey, I put up a comment on the NYT Dot Earth today about Red Wolves! Not red foxes- red wolves. :-)

just can't help it; there's an old mammal freak in there somewhere-

Chile said...

Nah, DC, she's too damn lazy to try to roam the countryside pretending to be a coyote. Plus she's pretty happy with her current looks and doesn't want to don a fake tail just to blend in with the rest of the pack. ;-)

Anonymous said...

i'm more of a 'leave him alone' kinda gal. unless there's an overpopulation of any species, i figure they may as well be left alone. i mean, we pretty much raped their land, and now we're all complaining that these animals are annoying us... what else should we expect? i mean, i hate skunks. they scare me, and they smell awful, and they love hanging around the lot where i park my car. but i would never expect anything to be done about it - i'm parking a car (yes, i know, shameful) on their land, and they're just hanging out under it 'cause it's warmer there. same with the coyotes. get used to it. you can't really divide humans and animals, it doesn't really work like that. and btw, i've been attacked so many times by pet dogs, that i would actually rather never see a dog larger than a maltese, but that's just me. that's the thing - everyone has their own fears.
and - if you're afraid of being attacked, why not get the pepper spray for a possible robber/rapist? i would think the probability of being attacked by a human predator is much higher...

Valerie Roberson said...

When I lived in New Mexico, an early cold snap drove a herd of antelope out of the mountains all the way to southern NM where we were. The park rangers/animal patrol/powers that be rounded them all up, drove them two hours north, and put them back where they 'belonged'.

The antelope beat them back to the city ;)

Live and let live I say. They were here first :)

camp mom said...

Greenpa-totally love your posts hope someone keeps plugging quarters into your jukebox!

Anonymous said...

When I lived in TX we had quite a large goat herd. You could hear the coyotes all the time but they never bothered the goats. One day I looked out and one of the coyotes was hanging out with the goats just laying out there with them. The only problem we did have was with our neighbor's dog and with the humongous raccoons that lived off of our chickens whenever they could and the feral hogs that roamed in our pastures. The only thing the coyotes would do is dig up any dead animal that we buried to eat the remains.