Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

On Instagram and Twitter: @unionbaywatch

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Coyote Challenge

To my readers,

The following is an open letter addressing the killing of three coyotes in Laurelhurst. If you agree (or disagree) with my perspective please feel free to inform Director Woodruff of your opinion. I have also be sent the following directly via email to: 

       roger.a.woodruff@aphis.usda.gov

Roger A. Woodruff
Washington State Director of Wildlife Services
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
United States Department of Agriculture

Update:

Apparently, Mr. Woodruff has just retired. The new acting Director is:

Terry L. Smith

      terry.L.smith@aphis.usda.gov

Dear Director Smith,

I was extremely disappointed to learn that three coyotes were killed last week, near Union Bay, in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Seattle. Historically, humanity's fear and ignorance of wild creatures has often led to killing and extermination. My fear is, if we do not learn to coexist with wild creatures then future generations will live in a dismal world of crows, concrete and mechanical contraptions. 

My personal goal is to promote harmony between nature and humanity, specifically around Union Bay which includes the Laurelhurst area. My blog about nature-in-the-city is called, Union Bay Watch. I believe that if we pay attention to wildlife, and treat wild creatures intelligently, we can find ways to coexist. 

A few weeks ago, I met one of the adult coyotes on the trail in the Union Bay Natural Area. Given the time of the year and because the coyote was out and about at mid-day, I suspect it was looking for food for its young. The coyote turned and fled into the brush as I approached. A perfectly acceptable response from a truly wild creature.

Because of my blog and my local interactions, I have talked with many different people who have seen the coyotes. No one who I spoke with mentioned any aggressive behavior. I truly believe the majority of the local people have been excited and happy to have coyotes as neighbors. I hope we can all agree that killing wild creatures should be a last resort.

The information I have read and the reaction from the neighbors causes me to seriously question whether extermination was warranted. The only justification I can find for the killing is, as reported on King5 News"Wildlife services received a request to assist in the management of several coyotes near the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Seattle. The coyotes had become increasingly aggressive towards people and pets in the area."

This statement leaves a lot to the imagination. I admit I do not know the details. I can however make a couple of logical assumptions given the information provided.

a) Since no injuries to humans were reported, I suspect the coyotes did not injure anyone.

b) Since no injuries to pets were noted, I suspect the coyotes did not injure any pets, either.

If the coyotes did not injure any humans or their pets then I wonder, What exactly did they do? What does "increasingly aggressive" really mean? 

Does it mean that in the Spring, with young to feed, the coyotes were being seen more often during the day, because their normal nocturnal hunting was not sufficient? Does it mean that the coyotes chased someone's cat up a tree? Does it mean that they growled at an off-leash dog that came near their den? Does it mean that the coyotes came into to someone's yard because the owner left pet food or open garbage outside? All of these fictional examples could be resolved with human education. It makes me wonder if the actual situation could have also been resolved with community guidance and instruction.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife provides an extensive online resource entitled, Living with Wildlife. The highlighted link goes directly to the specific portion of the site related to coyotes. The site lists many non-lethal options.

Our Canadian friends propose a simple three-step process for learning to deal with coyotes. The Stanley Park Ecological Society says, "1) Be Big, Brave and Loud. 2) Never Feed. 3) Spread the Word." They have additional links and information on their site, Co-existing with Coyotes. Please note that they even have an educational program for K-7 students. If our northern neighbors can teach their kindergarten students how to safely encounter coyotes I suspect we should be able to do the same. 

Was education given a fair chance? I have read nothing which implies that the folks in Laurelhurst were provided instruction on how to co-exist with coyotes. The next time your organization is contacted to resolved an issue with coyotes, I sincerely hope you will ensure that the community as a whole gets to participate in the process and that the educational alternatives are fully exhausted.

Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration of this issue.

Larry Hubbell
www.UnionBayWatch.blogspot.com

Update to Readers:

Does anyone happen to have a photo of the coyotes they would be willing to share?


Thank you to Doug Parrott for sharing his coyote photo taken on June 26th at the Union Bay Natural Area.

More Updates:

From the folks at The Laurelhurst Blog.


Here is the post the Laurelhurst Blog did on Friday about the killings:


And here are posts about coyote sightings:


More Photos:





********

Also here is the link to Jim Robertson's wonderful coyote photos which he provided in the comment below.

http://www.all-creatures.org/aw/coyote.html





35 comments:

  1. Yes, people should learn how to co-exist with coyotes. After all - they were here first. Man has moved into their (the coyotes) territory. What would this world be like if there were NO wild animals left?!!!
    Coyotes are in the Port Townsend area, and are sometimes seen in town. Nobody kills them! If a person were to be attacked and hurt or livestock killed by a coyote, then maybe that particular animal would be killed. When a foal was killed by coyotes 5-6 or so years ago, then coyotes were killed in the Chimacum area. I have never heard of a person being hurt by a coyote.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. From what I have read human injuries are very uncommon and usually thought to result from people feeding coyotes.

      Delete
  2. We should also note that staff at Urban Horticulture Center were pleased that the coyotes were preying on the rabbits that have been multiplying in a rapid and unmanageable way in this area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are also known to catch rats and other creatures that might otherwise spread disease .

      Delete
  3. The coyotes have been in the Laurelhurst area for about 20 or more years. There is a mention of catching one in a racoon cage years ago in a Seattle Times artice in Pacific Magazine about Wildlife in the city.
    The news artilce I saw I thought it said the killing took place on Talris property. They are the ones who put up the black fence around their property on 41st to keep the community off their lawn that children played on. I wonder if this company is looking at people playing on their lawn and coyotes having a den there as a liability, both for insurance puroses and as a selling point. Right now they are trying to sell the property as a school site for handicapped children. I'm amazed that the eagle nest that has been there for many years hasn't been brought down in the off season.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I expect coyotes will be back sooner or later, hopefully they will set up a den some place in the natural area and be left alone.

      Delete
  4. What an inhumane and unnecessary outcome for these important animals in our ecosystem. I've been away from Seattle for the year and didn't realize this had occurred.

    As a general matter, Wildlife Services should be defunded for the cruelty, corruption and wanton waste that exists in their "management" practices -- funded by our taxpayer dollars. That's something Rep. DeFazio has been trying to do for some time. Anyone or any community even considering employing USDA's Wildlife Services should read Tom Knudson's hard-hitting exposé of the agency in the series The Killing Agency: http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/wildlife-investigation/article2574599.html

    You may know that the California-based group Project Coyote is doing great work in moving people toward a coexistence model with coyotes and other predators. They've been instrumental in significant victories on behalf of coyotes and in opposition to current trapping and killing practices toward them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is an incredibly eye-opening article. It sounds like the lack of transparency and public oversight is huge issue. This is all news to me.

      Delete
    2. Larry, thanks for taking a look. It is utterly shocking to people if they don't know. There are communities and counties that are officially cancelling or reviewing their contracts with Wildlife Services, based on what they've learned about the agency's practices. Two examples: Davis, California and Mendocino, California. They are moving toward a more compassionate, co-existence model, which I hope is the future for more sane human-wildlife interactions. That paradigm shift needs to come sooner rather than later, for the sake of us all. The first-person accounts of the Laurelhurst coyote shootings -- the cries they heard and knowing there were pups -- are heartbreaking. We're operating, at times, with an archaic, 19th century ethic toward other species.

      Delete
    3. Thank you for the information and the links. If I understand the implication then the City of Seattle, King County or Washington State must have a contract with Wildlife Services, right?

      Delete
  5. As a wildlife photographer I have had several close encounters with coyotes in Seattle area parks. The most recent was about a year ago at Marymoor Park. I arrived very early in hopes of finding a barn owl. Walking along the path near the viewing mound I came face to face with a coyote as it was headed for where I had come from. We both stopped and looked at each other from a distance of 40 - 50 feet. I crouched down and began taking pictures while it stared at me. It then sat down on is haunches like a dog and leisurely scratched its belly with a hind foot. We continued like this for 15 minutes until it stood up and wandered off in the opposite direction. There was never a hint of aggression in its demeanor even though I was in a vulnerable position. In most of my encounters the coyote invariably turns and trots away. They are afraid of humans. It is only when we humans do stupid things (feeding them, leaving garbage out, etc.) that they become less fearful and might be labeled as aggressive.
    They are very pretty and intelligent animals and should not be destroyed for trivial reasons. Thank you Larry for bring this to our attention.
    Bob Kothenbeutel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bob, Thank you for taking the time to relay your experiences. I agree.

      Delete
  6. It is good to have a varied biome...but we should be careful with using our terms.. Coyotes are not native to Puget Sound nor have have they ever been. Coyotes have been following humans into habitats created by us. See this (positive) guide to "urban" coyotes and their expansion into states beyond the midwest and south: http://urbancoyoteresearch.com/about-coyotes

    Coyotes are filling a food chain slot left empty by cougar and wolf populations we have pushed out. Coyotes are exactly the same as the rabbit population at CUH or the Norway rats in our neighborhoods...introduced by us. I still remember articles about the 'shocked' first sightings in the 90's of coyotes on the Eastside. Unless we talk knowledgeably we will only inflame conversations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand your point about the pre-colonial distribution of coyotes, but how does that alter the present-day dialogue about coexisting with a native North American predator who's managed to exploit the unfortunate, ecological niches created by [non-native] European humans?

      Delete
    2. the point is they are new to the area. Demanding everyone accept them will cause a fight and the law is on the Talaris side. If you don't want coyotes on your property you can have them removed any way you see fit. They are not endangered. They are spreading to new habitats. We need to use honey not vinegar.

      Delete
    3. I personally would like to see native wolves and cougars in our habitat...but it isn' going to happen. We need to help others see that coyotes are needed for our ecosystem to be balance even though they are not native.

      Delete
    4. I do not profess to be an expert on coyotes. My email and post was intended to a) Draw attention to what appears to me to be an unnecessary use of lethal force and b) ask the agency responsible to explain their logic. I specifically admitted to not knowing the details and carefully removed any comments that I thought might be considered inflammatory. I am honestly not sure how I could have approached this issue more gently.

      Delete
    5. Interesting article about coyotes being native to all of North America……...http://naturemappingfoundation.org/natmap/facts/coyote_712.html

      Delete
  7. Last month, I saw a coyote acting strangely (scooting, dragging his legs) near the Center for Urban Horticulture. Worried that he was sick, I notified the Seattle Animal Shelter, who sent some officers out to check on the health of the coyote. The officers observed the coyote and determined that the coyote was just fine, he was suffering from mange and was rolling and scratching to relieve the itchiness. The officers let us know that the coyote was otherwise healthy, and gave us some tips for living with them safely - no feeding, and make loud noises if I saw them. Although I did see this one during the day, he was not acting aggressively, just a bit oddly. He ran away when approached by humans. I hope this little guy wasn't one of the ones senselessly killed last week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seems strange to me that we are apparently paying city, state and federal agents and agencies to all deal with the same creatures with what appears to be conflicting goals.

      Delete
  8. I did the bad thing of feeding them while living in the AZ desert in the 60s. Even with the feeding they were never aggressive toward us. I lost some cats and pet poultry to them in the 50s, when we moved into sagebrush on Royal Slope (Royal City area)to develop the land for farming, killing off their Jack Rabbit prey in the process. No aggression there either. I do love my little, woolly, song dog brethren. Delight in their songs, and, very much, regret that, in my old age, with a change of voice, I can't hit those high notes to sing with them anymore. One great memory from AZ was, what had to be a youngster, allowing me to do a "yap song" with it. Off topic, but I do have a different perspective than those who fear them. I still love to hear them sing on the hills above Ephrata...when they haven't killed them all off. But, resilient as they are, their voice doesn't seem to be stilled for ever. Long live my little, song dog brothers...no anthropomorphism implied!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for voicing your experiences and perspective.

      Delete
  9. There is a major project beginning in UBNA. They are bringing in 28 acres of mulch and will be mulching and planting almost the entire area. There are now mountains of mulch everywhere and large trucks and a crane in action. Very possibly the coyotes left the area and moved east into areas where their habitat was not disturbed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Clearly the 520 mitigation work in the UBNA is having an impact on the wild creatures in the area. It will be interesting to watch the changes in birds species and counts reported on eBird in coming years. Sometimes even our best efforts do not always turn out as we might hope. Which is why we need science and transparency so we can learn from our experiences.

      Delete
  10. Unfortunately WLS answers to no one. They kill over 5 million wildlife of ALL sorts--wolves, Bobcats, Grizzlies, bears, foxes, wolverines, eagles, etc. all over the US.They are the killing machine of the US govt out of USDA. They are a highly secret organization of rogues who simply enjoy killing, endangered species included. Letters to them are completely useless.
    If you really want to have an effect, find out who called WLS, locally. That's the person who needs to be called on the carpet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have no previous experience or knowledge of WLS. The link Ingrid provided (in her comment above)does certainly seem to align with some of your comments. I am still hoping that Acting Director Smith proves to be an enlightened person who responds to my letter and engages in a calm and healthy dialogue on the subject.

      Delete
    2. http://www.predatordefense.org/exposed/
      Info about Wildlife mServices

      Delete
  11. Coyotes were in Seattle in the 1960s and 1970s; their night howling thrilled me as a child. Still, when hearing them, I enjoy the sound. As a gardener, I appreciate how coyotes reduce the population of native raccoons and naturalized possums, never mind rats, because those animals raid human grape and plum crops. Yes, a coyote will take a domestic cat now and then. But the cats are carnivores who take out birds. Seattle has too few native foxes; the city benefits with a larger predator in the food chain. Coyotes are definitely desirable overall. From an ecologic perspective, Seattle would be far better off if we limited dogs and cats than coyotes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Arthur, Thank you for relating your perspective. I always look forward to your input and point of view! Thanks again! Larry

      Delete
  12. Here are some coyote images you can use to help get the word out.
    Jim Robertson http://www.all-creatures.org/aw/coyote.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jim, Thank you! Excellent photos! Larry

      Delete
  13. A link to Wildlife Services, the division of the Dept of Agriculture that is responsible for the killing…………..http://www.predatordefense.org/exposed/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jerry, Thank you for the link. It is truly hard to believe and very sad. Larry

      Delete
  14. An excellent resource………….http://www.projectcoyote.org/resources/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. Ingrid (in her comment above) mentioned this as well.

      Delete