Last September I blogged about a mountain lion that made its home in Discovery Park in Seattle. See post. Now the talk of Seattle is about a coyote that has taken up residence in the same area. See article in the Seattle Times. The coyote lives in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, and the sightings and photographs are being tracked by Loree Schoonover, editor of the Magnolia Voice, a community blog. Apparently Seattle residents have grown a little blase about the coyote and do not really fear the animal. Sean Carrell, of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife states that it is rare for coyotes to attack pets or people, but it does happen. According to the article in the Seattle Times, Sean Carroll stated: “There are so many greenbelts that provide avenues for these animals to travel that it’s not uncommon to see them in a highly urbanized environment….” Mr. Carroll’s comment is interesting. A “greenbelt” is a corridor of land through or surrounding a populated area to provide wildlife habitat or hiking opportunities. In Washington’s Growth Management Act, in RCW 36.70A.110, state law provides: “Each urban growth area shall permit urban densities and shall include greenbelt and open space areas.” Looking at a map, it is pretty hard to see any greenbelt in the area that would be a natural pathway to Discovery Park.
View Larger Map Discovery Park is at the end of a peninsula and the coyote would have to come up through Seattle’s downtown, or from the North and swim across the ship canal. I don’t really have any counter explanation. Seattle for some reason seems to really attract its fair share of random wildlife, and local residents are often at a loss of how to respond. When I lived in the Leschi neighborhood of Seattle at the far end of Yesler Way, an opossum wandered up from the park, and my neighbor thought it was a rat.
I guess it would be fine if Seattle coyotes remained in the parks and ate opossums, but the coyotes have been known to do some pretty crazy things. One time in 1997, a coyote entered the Federal Building in downtown Seattle and rode the elevator. (See source.) In Portland, Oregon, a coyote ran into an airport and later left the area by train. (source). In rural Eastern Washington, where I live now, such close encounters with wildlife are often attributed to habitat encroachment by humans. You do not hear such arguments from the Fish and Wildlife Dept with respect to the Seattle animal encounters.