Coyotes may be killing area cats
Steve Millard can't say for sure who mauled Angelo, the family's 5-year-old cat, but he has pretty strong suspicions based on a neighbor's...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Steve Millard can't say for sure who mauled Angelo, the family's 5-year-old cat, but he has pretty strong suspicions based on a neighbor's sighting of a coyote where Angelo's collar and part of his remains were found in Wedgwood on Thursday.
"I didn't know coyotes lived in our area before this," said Millard, who has resided in the neighborhood since 1986 and whose family has had cats the whole time.
"They're everywhere," Sgt. Kim Chandler, who covers King County for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said of coyotes. Yesterday he could offer no population estimate but was confident there are "thousands" in the county.
It is possible a coyote is to blame for Angelo's demise, because now is the time of year when female coyotes are out preying to feed their pups, Chandler said. On the other hand, a raccoon might be the culprit because of what was left behind, he said.
"They eat collar and all," Chandler said of coyotes. "I've seen coyote poop with bells [from cat collars]."
Yesterday, Craig Sampson, Sand Point Country Club golf-course superintendent, said his staff has periodically seen coyotes wandering onto the course for 15 years. "Generally in the early mornings," he said, "when people aren't around."
A man mowing the lawn found Angelo's remains in the back yard of a neighbor's home. The neighbor, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Marilyn, said that around midnight Thursday, she and her husband watched as a coyote loped along a 4 ½-foot wall in their back yard before dropping to the ground and sniffing the area where Angelo's fur had been.
Habitat: The coyote is found from Alaska to Costa Rica. During the 20th century, it expanded its range in all of the continental U.S., occupying the niche formerly held by the wolf. It lives in a burrow where, in spring, six or more pups are born after a gestation period of 60 to 63 days.
Size and appearance: A member of the dog family, it stands about 24 inches at the shoulder, weighs 20-25 pounds and is 3.3 to 4.3 feet long, including its roughly footlong tail. The fur is long, coarse and generally grizzled, buff above and whitish below. It has reddish legs and a bushy, black-tipped tail. There is considerable local variation in size and color.
Characteristics: Noted for nightly serenades of short yaps and mournful howls, it is primarily nocturnal and hunts alone or in relays. Coyotes are intelligent animals with a reputation for cunning and swiftness. They can sometimes attain a speed of 40 mph. They virtually never attack humans.
Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica Online, Sgt. Kim Chandler of state Department of Fish and Wildlife
When the coyote sensed they were watching from the window, it disappeared, Marilyn recalled. She described the coyote as "maybe 30 inches long," "mangy" and "agile."
In recent days, Marilyn said she's seen several signs posted on neighborhood utility poles about missing cats. She suspects they may have become coyote food.
Since Angelo was killed, she said, cats have quit coming to her back yard, which they had previously liked because it was quiet and had lots of squirrels and birds.
"I never would have dreamed that coyotes were out and about," she said.
But Chandler said coyotes have shown up all over town. He recalled the 1997 incident when a 30-pounder ducked into the downtown Henry M. Jackson Federal Building and ended up stuck in an elevator. It was captured and taken to rural King County, where it was released.
"You don't see them during the day," Chandler said. "It's mostly real early morning and during the night" that coyotes hunt. He called them "very opportunistic feeders" that already are consuming immature blackberries and young apples.
With all its ravines, Seattle has loads of places that serve as "coyote heaven," Chandler said. "They're ideal to den," he said of places such as Carkeek Park, with "upturned root wads where trees have turned over."
Chandler said dog walkers may want to pack a spray bottle filled with water and vinegar to ward off coyotes in the unlikely event one were to attack a small dog on a leash.
Both he and Ann Graves, enforcement supervisor with the Seattle Animal Shelter, say pet owners bear responsibility for safeguarding their animals.
"If cats are allowed outside without being monitored, it's not just risk of harm from wildlife," Graves said. They also face danger from cars, poisons and lethal viruses.
Unlike dogs, there's no leash law in the city for cats. Still, she said, "it's safer indoors."
Angelo was wearing a device on his collar to activate an electronic cat door, but never made it home last Wednesday night. He had all his claws and was "in great health," Millard said.
Peter Lewis: 206-464-2217 or email@example.com
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