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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Monday, October 02, 2006

Coyotes, Cheered on by Wildlife Officials, Join Raccoons in Killing Cats and Dogs in Washington State

Even though the citizens of the Evergreen State pay taxes to support supposedly competent wildlife management, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) repeatedly turns a deaf ear whenever it is asked for assistance. Zum Beispiel, when residents of Olympia back in August asked for its help with a pack of raccoons that had been slaughtering house cats they were refused. (See Cat Defender post of August 28, 2006 entitled "Marauding Pack of Vicious Raccoons Rip Ten House Cats to Shreds and Terrorize Residents but Wildlife Officials Refuse to Intervene.")

Now the scene has shifted one-hundred-seventeen kilometers north to the city of Everett in Snohomish County and this time around the problem is coyotes who have been implicated in the deaths and disappearances of several cats and dogs. Aggrieved citizens have turned to WDFW for assistance but once again they have been turned down. City, county, and federal officials have also refused to help.

Five cats and three dogs have disappeared from resident Scott Olin's Silver Lake neighborhood during recent weeks and he strongly suspects that they were killed by coyotes. His own cat was attacked in his backyard but, thankfully, survived.

Like the raccoons in Olympia, the coyotes seem to be getting bolder. "It's the first time I've seen them that bold and that aggressive to actually come in our backyard in the daytime," he told KING5-TV of Seattle on September 21st. (See "Coyotes Observed to Get Bolder.")

"We need some help out here. I've never heard of the problem getting this bad before," he added in an interview with The Herald of Everett on September 18th. (See "Coyotes Growing Bolder.")

Olin's neighbor, Jean Schrier, lost his Shih Tzu to a coyote and resident Brad Gregory's orange-colored cat, Jell-O, has been missing for more than a month. Cats have also been killed by coyotes in the towns of Shoreline and Edmonds and a Jack Russell Terrier was killed in Monroe.

Despite appeals for assistance from Olin and other residents, WDFW claims that it does not have enough personnel in order to act. "Our policy call is not to control coyote populations or have the state control coyote populations, otherwise we'd need a staff of five-hundred people," Captain Bill Hebner of WDFW told KING5-TV in the article cited supra.

The only circumstances under which WDFW will take action against coyotes is when they become a threat to humans as happened in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue back in April of this year. On that occasion, two young children were bitten by coyotes in the first documented attacks on humans in Washington.

Coyotes also scratched and snapped at two women and charged at a man. Rather than trapping and relocating them, WDFW killed two of them in retaliation even though it is doubtful that they were the actual culprits.

As far as humans are concerned, Hebner does not believe that Washington State's estimated fifty-thousand coyotes pose much of a threat. "Your chances of getting hit by lightning are actually better than being attacked," he told KING5-TV.

In short, his advice to people is to change their thinking and behavior and stop bellyaching. "From a public policy standpoint, coyotes are not going away and we need to learn how to live with them," he told The Herald.

The WDFW accordingly advises residents to keep cats and dogs inside and not to leave any food outside. Even fruit trees and berry patches should be protected by fences. As for humans, they are advised to noisily shoo away any coyotes that venture too close for comfort.

The WDFW's hands-off policy does not sit well with resident Sue Gaffney. "You don't want to wait until something happens to do it. You want to prevent it before it happens," she told KING5-TV.

Canis latrans, or barking dogs, resemble small German Shepherds au premier coup d'oeil. Fully grown, they stand about twenty-five inches tall and weigh between twenty and thirty-five pounds. Their muzzles are narrower than those of dogs and they have shorter, bushier tails that they carry low to the ground. (See photos above.)

They have keen senses of smell, sight, and hearing. Being onnivorous, their diet varies from mice, gophers, beavers, rabbits, squirrels, snakes, lizards, frogs, fish, and birds on the one hand to carrion, grass, fruits, berries, pet food, garbage, garden vegetables, livestock, poultry, and cats on the other hand. Although many people consider them to be nuisances, they have garnered praise from wildlife officials for helping to keep in check the geese, rodent, and deer populations.

As is the case with all animals, wild or domestic, their biggest enemy is, of course, man. For instance, federal, state, and local governments as well as private livestock associations exterminate eighty-thousand of them each year at the behest of sheepherders and other economic interests.

Aside from man, their only natural predators are cougars, bears, wolves, eagles, and sometimes dogs. In spite of that, the majority of coyotes do not live to see their first birthday and even those who do survive infancy rarely live beyond four years of age.

Coyotes who migrate to urban and suburban settings, however, enjoy a life expectancy double that of those who remain in rural areas. In captivity, they have been known to live for as long as eighteen years.

Although they were unknown to the so-called civilized world until early European fortune hunters discovered them in the southwest, they are indigenous to North and Central America where they have long been revered by Native Americans. For example, the Navajos regard them as God's dog and the Aztec god Coyotlinauatl was honored by ceremonies in which tribesmen dressed in the hides of coyotes.

Coyotes were originally confined to the western part of the country but the eradication of wolves during the early part of the last century allowed them to migrate eastward. Today they are found from Alaska to Costa Rica and in all states except Hawaii.

They, along with raccoons, are only two of a handful of medium to large animals that have been resourceful enough to expand their habitats at a time when rural America has been disappearing. The reintroduction of wolves in many parts of the country could have a deleterious effect upon their dominance, however.

As the result of their eastward migration they have become fixtures of the urban landscape in many large cities. For instance, an estimated two-thousand of them live in parks in and around Chicago. They have also taken up residence in Rock Creek Park in the nation's capital and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

They are frequently sighted in Boston, Detroit, and West Warwick, Rhode Island. One of them even strayed into Gotham's Central Park earlier this year. (See Cat Defender post of April 17, 2006 entitled "Hal the Central Park Coyote Is Suffocated to Death by Wildlife Biologists Attempting to Tag Him.")

They have even become familiar sights on many golf courses, such as the one in the retirement community of Sun City, northwest of Phoenix. (See photo immediately above.)

Without a doubt population growth and development are partially to blame for the recent spate of violent encounters between people and their pets and coyotes in Washington. New Jersey, for example, has a similar problem with black bears. (See Cat Defender post of June 19, 2006 entitled "Irresponsible Cat Owner Allows Declawed Tomcat Named Jack to Tangle with Black Bear in Northern New Jersey.")

Food, either purposefully or inadvertently left out, is another factor. "Once individual coyotes become used to traveling during the day and used to receiving food handouts, they learn to be more and more aggressive -- (and) attacks on humans are the next step," WDFW's Steve Pozzanghera told KING5-TV on April 26, 2006. (See "Hunt on After Coyote Bites Two in Bellevue.")

Doug Zimmer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Seattle office told The Herald that there may be a seasonal explanation for the coyotes' violent behavior. Young pups born in the spring are still maturing in the fall and as the result require more food; this, he reasons, along with the fact that families have not yet disbanded for the winter may account for the coyotes' added aggressiveness.

Other than keeping cats an dogs inside and not leaving out food, residents' options are rather limited. Fencing in their yards and crops is one option as is trying to scare off the coyotes with rubber buckshot. Property owners in rural areas may shoot them if they are either attacking pets or destroying crops but it is a crime to discharge a weapon in most urban areas.

Trapping is another option but both wildlife officials and professional trappers argue that it is seldom effective because coyotes are too cunning for most humane traps. Barbaric leghold traps are considerably more effective but they have been, mercifully, outlawed in Washington as well as in many other jurisdictions.

Unscrupulous individuals still use them, however, and cats sometimes get caught in them. (See Cat Defender posts of August 18, 2005 and December 24, 2005 entitled, respectively, "Brave Orange Tabby Cat Dubbed Hopalong Cassidy Loses Limb to Leghold Trap in British Columbia" and "A Cat Named Trapper Falls Victim to Another Rusty Leghold Trap in British Columbia.")

Wildlife officials' steadfast refusal to take action against both the coyotes in Everett and the raccoons in Olympia is outrageous. If they think that residents are going to sit idly by while their cats, dogs, and children are attacked they are crazy.

Coyotes and raccoons certainly have just as much of a right to life and liberty as do cats, dogs, and humans and people should stop encroaching upon their turf. That, however, does not rectify the violent situations in either Everett or Olympia.

In the absence of action by the WDFW, residents should look into installing fences around their properties but this is an expensive undertaking. They could, of course, confine their cats, dogs, and children indoors, but pets and people should be able to enjoy their own yards without fear of being attacked.

The excuses given by both wildlife officials and trappers for not humanely capturing and relocating problem coyotes are pretty lame. If they are too clever to be lured into traps, they should be first tranquilized and then relocated. Although it is not known how they pulled it off, it certainly did not take the WDFW very long to capture the two coyotes that it exterminated in Bellevue.

Because of their antipathy toward cats, wildlife officials no doubt have ulterior motives for not coming to the aid of aggrieved cat and dog owners. The disturbing truth of the matter is that many wildlife officials hate cats every bit as much as bird-lovers do and consequently they cheer every time one of them is killed by a coyote, raccoon, or some other wild animal.

A disgusting example of this ailurophobic attitude can be found on the website of the Natural History Museum of Los Angles County. Underneath the heading, "Coyotes: A Songbird's Best Friend?", there are two missing cat posters along with an endorsement of the American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors Program. The museum also approvingly points out that areas with the most coyotes have the fewest feral cats. (See photo above.)

Photos: Wikipedia (coyote in the forest), WDFW (coyote howling), Sarah Leen of National Geographic (coyote in Sun City), and Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (missing cat posters).