OLYMPIA - A recent coyote attack on a dog in an Olympia park has prompted a warning from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Although coyotes are usually solitary animals that shun humans, coyote packs can pose a danger, especially to pets and small children. Coyote packs generally form when a breeding pair of animals continues to live with yearling off-spring.
One or more coyotes attacked a 42-pound keeshound last Friday evening near a walking trail at Olympia's Watershed Park, off Henderson Boulevard.
The attack occurred after Bob Wadsworth of Olympia briefly let his dog off its leash as he was walking along the park's wooded loop trail. The dog jumped over a log near the trail and then was chased into the woods.
Wadsworth reported seeing one coyote, but suspects that more may have been involved, based on the amount of howling he heard. He searched the woods for nearly half an hour before locating his dog, which by then had 10 bites on its back and stomach.
Wadsworth's wife, Jo, who is deputy assistant director for WDFW's Fish Program, arrived at the park as her husband was carrying out the injured dog. She said the coyote howling continued after the attack.
The dog is recuperating, after surgery and an overnight stay at a local veterinarian's office.
To lessen the risk of conflict with coyotes, WDFW wildlife managers offer these suggestions:
- Keep pet food and water inside.
- Keep pets inside or confined securely in a kennel or covered exercise yard.
- Do not feed wildlife on the ground; keep wild bird seed in feeders designed for birds, elevated or hanging above ground, and clean up spilled seed from the ground; coyotes can either be drawn directly to the seed, or to the rodents drawn to the seed.
- Keep fruit trees fenced or pick up fruit that falls to the ground.
- Do not feed feral cats; coyotes prey on the cats and feed on cat food left out for them.
- Minimize groundcover vegetation near children's play areas to avoid attracting rodents and small mammals that will in turn attract coyotes; keep clusters of shrubs, trees and other cover and food plants away from buildings and children's play areas.
- Use noise-making devices when coyotes are seen. Check with local authorities regarding noise and weapons ordinances.
- Be assertive in attitude and behavior towards coyotes that are not showing normal fear of humans.
Jo Wadsworth acknowledged that dogs are supposed to be leashed in the park.
"Like other people whose dogs stay close by when they're walking, we do let our dog off the leash occasionally," she said. "But we probably would not have had this problem if we'd kept the leash on."
Coyotes are found in all areas of the state, and number more than 50,000 animals statewide. For more information on coyotes, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/diversty/living/coyotes.htm on the WDFW website.