Coyote sightings may catch people by surprise, but threat is low
EVERETT — No one knows how many coyotes roam Snohomish County, but the five that stared back at Keith Black as he looked out on his Everett backyard on a recent Sunday morning were too many for comfort.
During 17 years living in their Glacier View Neighborhood home near a wooded trail, Keith’s wife Paula Black said she became accustomed to occasionally seeing a lone coyote in her backyard. Five was unprecedented.
The Blacks posted to Facebook, where coyote sightings by startled city dwellers have been popping up over the summer.
But the story didn’t end with social media.
“Our cat went missing,” Paula Black said. When he finally returned, “we let him in and he was bleeding, so we took him off to (the) vet. They kind of shaved him down to see what they had … and it was like a big dog took a chunk out of his back.”
Black is certain the injury was caused by coyotes, who she said returned the morning after the attack.
Just how many coyotes are cohabiting with humans in cities is unknown, but experts agree they are doing well.
Coyotes are unclassified wildlife. That means the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) does not track population size but it estimates the population to be at least 50,000 statewide on its website.
Everett Animal Control also does not track coyote-related calls: it directs residents to Fish and Wildlife. As for rescue agencies, they say they don’t hear about thriving coyotes, so receiving a few calls only indicates sick and orphaned ones are uncommon this year.
The only counted coyotes are dead ones. In Snohomish County, Fish and Wildlife recorded 16 as road kill in 2015, 43 in 2016, and 62 in 2017. However, the tracking only began a few years ago so some of the increase might be attributed to staffers coming up to speed on the tracking technology, said Fish and Wildlife biologist Kelly McAllister.
“Coyotes — they love our urban environment and what we do to it: We’ll leave our trash out, take our animals outside, mow our lawns in such a way the bunnies come out,” said PAWS spokeswoman Laura Follis.
While the opportunistic canids thrive on everything from squirrels and garbage to cats and small dogs, coyotes tend to be wary toward humans and attacks are extremely rare.
Sightings may increase in the fall as pups born in April and May learn to hunt and then begin to separate from their parents.
Fish and Wildlife offers many basic precautions to help humans, domestic animals and coyotes coexist safely.
First, never ever feed coyotes, intentionally, or unintentionally. Pet lovers should never leave pet food outdoors. Pets should be kept indoors between dusk and dawn. Garbage must be secured. Poultry and livestock should be securely penned.
Second, while threats to people are rare, if a coyote approaches, children and adults should act “as big, mean, and loud as possible” and don’t run, says Fish and Wildlife. Adults should pick up small children.
For more safety tips and species information, go to www.wdfw.wa.gov/living/coyotes.html
To report non-emergency wildlife, contact Fish and Wildlife at www.wdfw.wa.gov/enforcement or call 1-877-933-9847.
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