OLYMPIA—With coyote sightings increasing in many areas of the state as spring unfolds, Washington residents play a major role in averting potentially dangerous encounters with these and other wild animals.
“Don’t feed wildlife, either on purpose or by allowing animals access to garbage, pet food or pets themselves,” said Capt. Bill Hebner, who heads the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) North Puget Sound enforcement program.
Coyotes reportedly preying on domestic cats in the Bellevue area are among the most recent incidents, but problem wildlife encounters occur across the state and typically increase as animals become more active during the spring.
“The common denominator in many of these incidents is that first someone fed wild animals,” said Hebner. “Once a wild animal is fed, it loses its natural fear of humans, becomes more bold, and becomes more dangerous to pets and people.”
The link between feeding and problem wildlife encounters was illustrated last year in an Olympia neighborhood, which experienced a rash of raccoon attacks on cats and dogs. The raccoon problems ceased when residents in the area stopped feeding the animals.
While WDFW enforcement response usually is limited to incidents in which human safety is threatened, department officers will increase their patrols in the Bellevue area due to the reported coyote problems, Hebner said. WDFW also is working with City of Bellevue police to monitor the situation.
Once coyotes become problem animals in urban areas, control is difficult, Hebner said. Some control methods may not be suitable in highly populated settings and live trapping is not successful with coyotes.
Use of body-gripping traps was banned under a citizen initiative passed by Washington voters in 2000. However, under that law, private property owners may seek special approval from WDFW for use of padded leg-hold traps on problem coyotes. Permit details are available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/smallgame_trapping/ If a permit is approved, property owners assume responsibility for safe use of the traps.
Besides avoiding feeding wildlife, residents can minimize the risk of problem encounters by keeping cats indoors at all times and keeping small dogs in covered kennels or attended on a leash.
While coyote attacks on children are rare, two Bellevue youngsters were bitten last spring by a coyote that was later dispatched by a WDFW officer. To reduce the risk of similar attacks, children should be supervised when playing outdoors.
For more information on avoiding problem encounters with coyotes visit the WDFW website at