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Originally published Friday, February 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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USDA lets coyote remain in park

The Discovery Park coyote has been given a reprieve. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, after a meeting with the Seattle Parks Department...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Discovery Park coyote has been given a reprieve.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, after a meeting with the Seattle Parks Department on Wednesday, said it has no plans to remove the coyote from the park.

"As of today, it's status quo," Ken Gruver, assistant state director for USDA Wildlife Services in Olympia, said Thursday. "We're all scratching our heads."

Initially, the government planned to shoot the coyote, which raised a flood of protests, and Gruver said the government decided the park was too crowded to attempt to shoot the animal.

"As of now we have no plans to remove the coyote," he said, adding that he believes there are several of the animals in the park.

Earlier, when there was talk of shooting the animal, he said the coyote was showing aggressive tendencies toward people and animals. "There's an indication it's losing its fear of humans and could be a human health and safety issue," Gruver said.

A coyote has snatched a cat and chased a small dog in the park.

Gruver said he met with Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher on Wednesday night and outlined several options for dealing with the coyote, ultimately deciding to do nothing right now.

"It's good news and very, very good news for the coyote," said Joelle Ligon, spokeswoman for Seattle Parks. "This is a satisfactory outcome."

She said the city is planning a meeting Feb. 7 in Magnolia to talk about how to live with wildlife in the city. The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Magnolia Community Center, 2550 34th Avenue W.

"Our hope is that we can change the behavior of humans living in and around the park and that will cause the coyote to change his behavior, Gallagher said.

Ligon said residents need to be reminded not to feed coyotes and to be careful around them.

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"It's so, so important to teach the community how to live with wildlife so we don't get into this situation again."

Complaints about the coyote were raised by residents of the military housing that abuts the park.

The military officers' housing in Discovery Park is a remnant of Fort Lawton, a former Army base that commanded the Magnolia bluffs for more than 70 years before being converted to the city's largest park. The 26 elegant Victorian homes, with wide porches and marine views, sit on a parcel of Navy land inside the park. Most who live there are naval officers and their families.

Discovery Park naturalists say coyotes have lived in the area since the city took over the former military base in 1971.

The Magnolia meeting will include parks naturalists, members of the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), the Woodland Park Zoo, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Seattle Animal Shelter.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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