Spring is on the way, and with it local urban wildlife sightings could increase, including spottings of animal neighbors like coyotes, raccoons and even the occasional bear.
While Redmond and other Eastside cities are booming, they’re not far removed from the lush woodlands of the Pacific Northwest.
Consequently, it’s not uncommon to see wildlife within city limits, said Sgt. Kim Chandler, with the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Coyotes are everywhere, every municipality I think in the United States has the darn things,” Chandler said.
The Reporter has received reports of coyote sightings in the Education Hill neighborhood in recent weeks.
With mating season approaching, Chandler said there might be a corresponding uptick in sightings.
“They’re just here, no more than others, it just happens to be — well — you get a couple of nice days and folks are out and about more,” he said of sightings.
Smaller wildlife, like raccoons and coyotes, are generally not a threat to humans, even children.
However, they can pose a serious threat to pets such as small dogs and cats, as well as stock animals like sheep and goats.
“You have to take precautions,” Chandler said.
Leaving pets inside or keeping an eye on them in yards should reduce the risk of attacks by wild animals.
Even in more rural parts of the county, good practices to keep farm animals like sheep safe include stringing up an electric fence and bringing the animals into shelter overnight.
Generally, coyotes are skittish around humans.
In the 40 years Chandler has worked in King County, he’s only seen a couple instances of a human being bitten by a coyote.
“It does happen, it absolutely does happen, but those instances are so rare,” he said.
People are much more likely to be attacked by a pet dog than a wild animal, said Chandler.
Which is not to say people should cozy up to wildlife.
Garbage should be kept locked up and people should never feed wild animals.
In fact, feeding a bear is a criminal offense, but it is not illegal to feed coyotes. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, though.
“That is not acceptable, it’s not acceptable to feed any wildlife other than tweety birds,” Chandler said. “Absolutely do not put stuff out for raccoons, possums, bears, coyotes, any of that, because that encourages them and makes them become more dependent.”
Fear of humans is natural to coyotes, but feeding them erodes this.
Unless coyotes or other wildlife are a threat to humans, state officials won’t trap or kill them, but Chandler said it’s important for people to use good etiquette.
“It just takes one guy on the end of the block to screw it up for everyone else when they’re not picking all their stuff up,” he said.
There are also bears in the county, with some 700 sightings being reported in 2017.
Almost all of these were related to garbage being left out or not having bear-proof garbage cans, Chandler said.
At the end of the day, residents should keep an eye out for urban wildlife, but shouldn’t bother them.
“Be aware, just be a little more vigilant,” he said. “Again, they don’t really go after people, you may hear them howling and carrying on, that’s just what they do.”
Neighboring cities have had run-ins with coyotes too.
In 2016, a large coyote was killed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services in Kirkland after it had taken pets from yards and displayed “an unusual fearlessness toward people” for two months.
“The challenge of living with wildlife in urban area is that it takes consistent action on the part of the whole community to discourage aggressive wildlife,” a spokesperson for the agency said in a 2016 article in the Kirkland Reporter. “If one neighbor takes steps to avoid coyotes, but then another intentionally or unintentionally feeds them, efforts to minimize coyote confrontations won’t work.”
In short, don’t feed the neighborhood coyote, no matter how cute it might be.