In response to some residents alerting the city of several coyote sightings and reporting pet attacks in recent weeks, staff has launched a robust centralized resource page to guide the public on how it can help minimize interactions with coyotes and other wildlife on the Island.
Mercer Island Police Department Operations Commander Mike Seifert said the department has received five reports of pet attacks since November of 2021. During the week of Jan. 24, Seifert told the Reporter that a woman contacted police and said she felt a coyote was stalking her along with an adult child and a dog while they were walking on the Island. No contact was made between the coyote and the group.
Following the latter incident, staff has connected with state and federal wildlife agencies to help monitor coyote behavior and formalized a Coyote Management Plan that it will present to the city council at its Feb. 1 meeting. In addition, the city will bring United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) coyote expert Matt Stevens back to the community to revisit his analysis of local coyote behavior and determine the city’s next steps with the situation.
“We’re trying to remind folks that the Island does have quite a bit of greenspace, and coyotes have become more and more urban as of late. There’s an important need to be aware of what’s going on with wildlife and know how to deter influencing animal behavior,” said Mason Luvera, the city’s communications manager.
Comments that flooded the city’s Facebook feed after it announced the wildlife resource page ranged from one commentor thanking the city and putting trust in the experts, to another commentor saying that coyotes should be removed from the Island.
During a virtual community meeting in November of 2021 with 70 attendees, including concerned residents, Stevens said he believed there were at least two — and possibly four — coyotes roaming the Island, according to a previous Reporter article. While there were multiple coyote sightings reported at the time, Stevens said he determined there was no threat to human health and safety. He mentioned in his presentation that “a cat maybe went missing or people even saw them maybe run across the road with their cat.”
Stevens’ top recommendation is for people to bring their pets inside, especially because they know coyotes are present.
The city’s Coyote Sightings and Interactions page of its Let’s Talk community engagement platform notes that residents should avoid leaving food or garbage out around homes; never feed wild animals or leave pet food out, whether for bunnies, raccoons, deer, or otherwise; keep their pets supervised when outdoors, including keeping dogs leashed when recreating or in more desolate areas.
“Coyotes are naturally fearful of humans. If you encounter a coyote, the Department of Fish and Wildlife encourages you to ‘haze’ it by jingling keys, making loud noises, yelling, etc.,” the page reads. To report a coyote sighting or interaction, residents can call the Mercer Island Police Department’s non-emergency number at 425-577-5656, or 911 if one feels they are in immediate danger or threatened by an animal.
Regarding why coyotes are not being removed from the Island, the Let’s Talk page notes: “There are several laws dictating coyote management in Washington state. Capturing and relocating coyotes is prohibited under state law, and the only option to remove animals from the Island entails euthanasia, which the responsible agencies only enact when certain patterns of behavior are evident.”
Those behaviors are, according to Stevens in a report, coyotes chasing or taking attended pets, especially during the day; taking pets on leash and chasing joggers, bikers, etc.; and seen in and around children’s play areas and schools during the day.
For more information, visit the Wildlife of Mercer Island page at: https://letstalk.mercergov.org/wildlife-on-mercer-island, and the Coyote Sightings and Interactions page at: https://letstalk.mercergov.org/wildlife-on-mercer-island/news_feed/coyote-updates.