Kirkland family loses dog to coyote in troubling trend

Around 1 a.m. on March 28, the sound of fighting animals awakened Chris Carlson from his sleep at his family's home in southwest Kirkland.

Around 1 a.m. on March 28, the sound of fighting animals awakened Chris Carlson from his sleep at his family’s home in southwest Kirkland.

He walked to his backyard and flipped on the light, but instead of being greeted by his 13-year-old, 25 pound Beagle, Happy, he came face to face with a German Shepherd-sized coyote.

They both froze, Carlson said, before the massive animal vaulted his six-foot fence, disappearing into the night.

“Given how large it was, I actually hesitated,” he said.

He began looking for Happy, and found his family’s beloved pet bleeding in the side yard, her throat mangled from the coyote attack.

Carlson wrapped up his dog and sped to the nearest 24-hour veterinarian clinic where Happy was stabilized. But three days later she succumbed to her injuries after her throat swelled shut.

Coyote sightings and attacks on small animals like cats or small dogs are relatively common in his area, Carlson said, but from talking with neighbors in the city, the severity and frequency of attacks has increased recently.

“My back yard is not an open space, my back yard is a fenced back yard, I am on a cul-de-sac… there is no wild space around us and yet a coyote knew I had a dog and come into our back yard and attacked a family member,” Carlson said. “The only good thing that came out of this is that my dog did not bleed out in my children’s arms.”

A community Facebook page called “Kirkland Pet Predator,” which documents coyote attacks and sightings in the southwest portion of the city, lists at least eight dogs who were killed or wounded by coyotes since last October. But the actual number is likely much higher.

Multiple reports also mention a large coyote which was described as looking like a German Shepherd or a wolf.

In an email from a USDA Wildlife Services representative, they said the coyote populations are ‘stable and increasing’ as the spaces between urban sprawl and undeveloped areas shrinks.

Severe coyote attacks on humans are uncommon but happen occasionally. In 2013, a Kent man was attacked by three coyotes while walking his puggle, according to a report.

The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife said the first recorded coyote attack on a human in Washington State happened in 2006 in Bellevue where two children were bitten. Two coyotes were euthanized following the attacks.

According to the Fish and Wildlife website, attacks are more common if coyotes are fed purposefully or inadvertently by humans, letting them become more comfortable around people.

Jason Filan, Parks Manager for the City of Kirkland said coyotes are found all over the city, particularly around large natural areas like Watershed or Big Finn Hill Parks.

“They’re kind of like raccoons and possums and deer, it’s amazing how much wildlife we actually have in our park system,” he said.

In an email, city representative Lorrie McKay said the state Department of Fish and Wildlife told her they do not relocate coyotes. Instead, they are killed.

Additionally, she said the department, as well as the county Regional Animal Services said coyotes are widespread on the Eastside in both rural and urban areas.

Keeping garbage can lids firmly secured, not feeding pets outside and doing away with bird feeders, were all suggested ways to ward off coyotes.

But for Kirkland resident Steve Mantle, those responses fall short of what he had hoped.

On April 19, a coyote jumped Mantle’s seven-foot fence and grabbed his family’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel by the scruff.

As the coyote was carrying off the dog, one of his family members saw what was happening and ran into the back yard yelling, which scared the coyote into dropping the dog and jumping back over the fence.

“Actually quantifying the issue and scoping it and identifying whose jurisdiction is to resolve this, or at least further investigate and identify a solution,” would be a good first step, Mantle said.

Both Mantle and Carlson said from their observation the coyotes seem to be getting less afraid of humans and more aggressive recently.

“The coyotes have gotten relatively more brazen, and are now going after larger animals, and very much in-your-backyard animals,” Carlson said.

According to state law, a license is generally required to hunt or trap coyotes, but homeowners are allowed to protect themselves and their property.

However, in an email response, a USDA Wildlife Services representative said it is best for residents to consult with a professional trapper or Fish and Wildlife representatives if there have been problems with coyotes.

Carlson said he doesn’t believe private homeowners trapping and killing coyotes is the answer.

Community mapping of where the attacks occur in conjunction with official action, he said, may help alleviate the problem.

Until then, Carlson said pet owners should take extra precautions with their four-legged family members.

“Losing a pet this way is like losing a family member to violent crime,” he said. “It’s one thing to learn to live with wildlife, this comes down to learning to live with violent crime.”