Coyotes have been seen in a few Bellingham neighborhoods this spring and their sightings have caused concern among some residents who have taken to social media to alert others.
Posts have been made on Nextdoor for the Barkley and Whatcom Falls neighborhoods, reminding people to keep their pets indoor.
Someone also posted earlier this month that their medium-sized dog was stalked and attacked by three coyotes one morning, "seemingly to protect their den in the wetlands by the Interurban trail."
The person then advised people to closely watch their pets in the Hundred Acre Wood and on the Interurban trail as it approached Old Samish.
In response, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is telling people to be aware of their surroundings and the times at which they go out.
Coyotes prefer to hunt in the early evening or early morning, when it's quieter. If possible, avoid an area where sightings have been reported, according to Ryan Valentine, a Fish and Wildlife officer.
Valentine said people want him to tell them with absolute certainty they can get out for a walk without any issues, but what he can share is safety measures and probable behavior.
"They're wild animals," Valentine said. "We can't predict what they're going to do. We try to do the best we can based on biology, behaviors."
He recommended people learn more about coyotes, wily and curious creatures who usually keep their distance, by going online to wdfw.wa.gov/living/coyotes.html.
The website offers facts that include their habitat, feeding habits and family structure.
"In Washington, these intelligent and adaptable animals now manage to occupy almost every conceivable habitat type, from open ranch country to densely forested areas to downtown waterfront," Fish and Wildlife said on the website.
The site also offers tips for what to do when dealing with coyotes and how to keep your pets safe.
"Because they operate more on the fringe area," Valentine said, "they get more used to seeing people, I think."
Here are some of the things you should and should not do during a coyote encounter:
- Don't run. That could trigger their chase instinct.
- If there are small children with you, pick them up immediately.
- Act aggressively to convince them you are not prey. Wave your arms, throw rocks and shout at it. If necessary, make yourself big. Stand up if you are sitting or step up onto a rock, stump or stair.
- Keep dogs and cats inside, especially from dusk to dawn.
- Secure your garbage and compost so they can't get into it. If you feed your pets outdoors, bring the food, including any that spilled, and water bowl inside each day well before dark.
Don't feed them, because they'll likely lose their fear of people and develop a territorial attitude that could lead to aggression.
Learn more at whatcomhumane.org/coexisting.
And here's how to identify a coyote.
If you love Whatcom Wildlife
Join us in our Facebook group Whatcom Wildlife. The Bellingham Herald created this group because we know so many people love to take pictures and video of the animals around us. And while we might want to publish a photo from the site, we’ll always ask the photographer’s permission first.