BELLEVUE—State and federal officials today are warning residents and attempting to capture a coyote that bit two youngsters in the Eastgate area of Bellevue yesterday.
The Tuesday afternoon attacks, in which a 1 ½-year-old boy was bitten on the ear while playing under the supervision of his parents at the Eastgate Elementary School playground, and a 4-year-old boy was bitten on the buttocks in the yard of his Eastgate area home, follow a coyote attack in the Eastgate area in late March, in which a woman was bitten on the leg in the afternoon as she was walking on a sidewalk to pick her child up from school at the Temple De Hirsch Sinai. More recently, a coyote attacked a pet toy poodle being walked on a leash in Issaquah, about two miles from the Eastgate area.
The 4-year-old child was treated for bites and has started rabies prevention vaccination, and the parents of the toddler are considering rabies treatment. The woman attacked in March received scratches and underwent rabies vaccination, and the poodle was treated by a local veterinarian. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) enforcement officers believe the same coyote could be involved in all the attacks, due to the proximity of the incidents.
WDFW officers have contacted federal animal-control experts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program to capture the coyote, notified Bellevue Police and the elementary school about the attacks and provided the school with safety information for students and their families.
The federal animal control officer will determine the capture method, which could include immobilizing the animal with a tranquilizer dart shot or setting out traps, if suitable locations can be found in the area. If traps area used, they would be a padded leg-hold type, baited with a substance that tranquilizes the trapped animal for up to 24-hours, said Capt. Bill Hebner, who heads WDFW’s enforcement program in the North Puget Sound region. Regardless of the method used to capture the animal, it will be humanely euthanized and tested for rabies, Hebner said.
“Trapping coyotes is extremely difficult, but we have to make every effort to remove any dangerous wild animal that has clearly lost its fear of humans,” said Hebner.
While most coyotes do not attack people, a small percentage of animals become increasingly aggressive once they become habituated to humans, said Steve Pozzanghera, deputy director of WDFW’s Wildlife Program.
The unusual concentration of attacks and other coyote incidents in the same vicinity indicate that the animals may have become aggressive because they are accustomed to getting food—either intentionally or inadvertently—from humans, said Hebner. He noted that it is very unusual to see so many incidents in the same area.
Once individual coyotes become used to people, become used to traveling during the day and used to receiving food handouts, they learn to be more and more aggressive—attacks on humans are the next step,” said Pozzanghera, who said that pattern has occurred in some communities in California and other western states.
The following precautions will diminish the likelihood of a coyote interaction:
- Keep garbage and compost piles securely covered.
- Keep pet food and water inside and keep pets indoors or confined in a kennel or covered exercise yard.
- Do not feed wildlife on the ground, keep wild bird seed in elevated feeders designed for birds, and clean up spilled seed from the ground;
- Do not feed feral cats; coyotes prey on the cats and feed on cat food left out for them.
- Minimize ground cover vegetation near children's play areas, to avoid attracting rodents and small mammals that in turn attract coyotes
- Use noise-making devices when coyotes are seen. Check with local authorities regarding noise and weapons ordinances.
- Be assertive toward coyotes that do not show fear of humans
More information on coyotes is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/living/coyotes.htm