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Seward Park pet owners on coyote alert

Seattle Post–Intelligencer – Washington

Residents spreading the word after attacks

By Claire Trageser

Stripey the cat usually stayed inside.

But one morning three weeks ago, Joyce Yarrow’s husband opened the door to their Seward Park home and let the cat into the yard. They expected him back in 10 minutes, so when Stripey hadn’t returned by that evening, they knew something was wrong.

"We started looking, and found his remains a few blocks away," Yarrow said. "It was obvious he’d been eaten by an animal."

Yarrow checked with her neighbors and heard other stories of missing pets. They also told her they’d seen something that confirmed her suspicions about the cause of Stripey’s demise: coyotes.

Seward Park residents reported that coyotes are responsible for at least three other pet attacks over the past month.

On Sunday, three coyotes attacked a dog in her owners’ front yard and on Thursday another cat was attacked. Both animals survived, but residents suspect coyotes killed another cat that disappeared two weeks earlier.

"These coyotes are probably starving to be so bold to make these attacks," Yarrow said.

Staff at the state Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Program said a ballot measure passed in 2000 has prevented officers from trapping or killing coyotes to control their population. However, in April 2006, wildlife officers euthanized two coyotes in Bellevue that bit two children. The measure allows putting down animals "by instruction of public authorities."

Other Seattle neighborhoods have had outbreaks of coyote attacks in the past, including the Discovery Park area in January, Capitol Hill and West Seattle last summer, Beacon Hill in 2006 and Wedgwood in 2005.

Yarrow said she and her neighbors think these coyotes have a den in Seward Park, which would give them easy access to their yards and pets.

On its Web site, wdfw.wa.gov, the state wildlife department recommends several precautions people can take, including preventing coyotes’ access to garbage and compost, feeding pets inside and keeping pets indoors, especially from dusk to dawn.

Now, Yarrow and her neighbors are fighting back. They organized an e–mail list to report new coyote attacks and sightings, and are hoping to alert all pet owners to keep their animals indoors.

"I’d heard rumors about people seeing coyotes, but I didn’t believe it," Yarrow said. "I don’t think other people are aware of the dangers."