Living With Coyotes

Most of us have chosen to be on Guemes Island because we love its beautiful environment and the wild creatures that live here. We even put up with the plentiful deer, in spite of their appetite for our favorite garden ornamentals. But what about coyotes? 

Over the past month, I’ve spoken to three people who have lost cats in likely coyote attacks. According to the Animal Control Officer in Anacortes, Fidalgo Island supports a large population of coyotes. They are highly intelligent, adaptable animals that make a home in habitats as diverse as open ranch country and downtown Seattle. Coyotes most commonly eat rodents, frogs, fruits, berries and other predominantly wild foods. However, when humans are nearby, coyotes will happily eat pet food, garbage, garden crops and, on occasion, domestic animals.

When a coyote population is under pressure, such as when they are hunted, the females tend to have litters that are larger than normal. Even if we could get rid of all Guemes coyotes, which is highly unlikely, new candidates would arrive from Fidalgo Island by swimming the channel. The coyotes are here to stay and we need to find a way to peacefully coexist.

Here are ways that islanders can discourage coyotes from becoming attracted to the food and shelter that we may inadvertently provide:

Keep pet food and water inside.

Store garbage in tight-locking trash cans.

Keep pets inside or confined in a coyote proof enclosure.

Clean up spilled birdseed from beneath feeders. The seed may attract rodents, which are a staple of the coyote diet.

Keep fruit trees fenced, or pick up fruit that falls to the ground.

For more information, contact the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife at (360) 466-4345.

Online resources:

United States Department of Agriculture

Progressive Animal Welfare Society

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife


Paul Beaudet

Identifying Coyotes

Some people might inadvertently mistake a coyote for a German shepherd or a silver or brown Malamute.

The key to identifying them is to look at the tail. Coyotes will never be seen with their tail curled. It will always either be held straight down or straight back. They will rarely wag it.

Coyotes also have very long lanky legs and an especially narrow pointed nose. The easiest way to tell if coyotes are around is to listen. People usually will hear a coyote's howl before they will see one. 

Descriptive info from Predator Conservation Alliance

Coyote Stories

Washington State Fish and Wildlife Comments

Several people have communicated with me recently expressing their concerns over the high visibility of coyotes in neighborhoods, as well as the disappearance of domestic cats, and attacks made by coyotes on small dogs with the owner present.

I called the Mill Creek regional branch of Washington State Fish and Wildlife to discuss the situation. There is nothing that Fish & Wildlife can do to limit the coyote population at this time. The ban of any type of trap in Washington does not provide Fish & Wildlife the necessary resources to help control the population.

Several suggestions were made to protect domestic pets. If not indoors for twenty four hours, all cats and small dogs should be indoors or at least in secured yards from dusk to dawn, the primary feeding time for coyotes, unless they are feeding their young when they can be hunting 24 hours/day, which we have recently experienced. To secure a yard from coyotes, a fence must be at least 5 feet high, with an underground extension to a maximum of 2 feet. They can dig under a fence to get to their prey. Keep garbage cans tightly secured, and do not feed pets outside, as the smell of garbage or food will attract coyotes.

If a coyote is threatening an individual’s property in any way, the coyote, considered a nuisance animal, can legally be hunted year round. This requires a small or big game license, and adherence to local hunting regulations.

As with most situations, an ounce of prevention could save a world of heartache for those of us who love our pets, and also care for all living creatures.

Sharon Schlittenhard

Tags: Environment