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Apartment residents howl over coyotes

They are fast, stealthy and bold enough to hunt in the heavily populated area near Federal Way’s BPA Trail.

Coyotes have been seen several times by Federal Way residents living at the Cove East Apartments, 33030 1st Ave. S.

The apartments overlook the well-used BPA Trail, along which Federal Way resident Nicholas Genera suspects the coyotes have a den. Genera has seen a wild coyote in the parking lot of his apartment complex twice this summer, most recently on Aug. 31, he said. He hears the animals howling frequently. His neighbor, Cole Larson, jogs the BPA Trail often and has also had two run-ins with the animals, Larson said.

Both view the coyotes as a threat to the domestic pets at the apartment complex. Genera hopes the coyotes will settle for animals and not dare to take a small child, as he has heard rumors of coyotes doing, he said.

“I don’t think a cat would stand much of a chance (against a coyote),” Genera said.

In the 12 years Genera has lived at East Cove Apartments, he has seen and heard coyotes near his home once in a while, but in the past they did not seem as active as they are this summer, he said.

Recently, he has spotted the wild animals mostly during the early-morning and evening hours around 6 a.m. when he is walking his cat, Cody, Genera said.

From the apartments’ parking lot, the coyotes have two advantages, according to Genera. They have easy access to domestic pets as a food source, and from the hillside near the apartments, they have a viewpoint from which they can watch for wild game in the slight valley where the BPA Trail is located.

Both times Genera spotted a coyote in the complex’s parking lot, its head was hung, as if it were on the prowl for food, he said.

“They wouldn’t be in here unless they were successful,” he said.

Several of Genera’s neighbors have domestic pets that they leave outside during the daytime and overnight. As if to prove this point, a fluffy orange and brown cat approaches Genera from across the parking lot, then proceeds to wander into the low-cut vegetation between the lot and the BPA Trail.

Genera fears small pets face a danger of becoming a fast meal for the coyotes if they wander too far at the wrong time of day or night, he said.

Jim and Karen Atkinson began noticing the coyotes in June, Karen Atkinson said. She has not seen the creatures, but remembers hearing what sounded like a pack of coyotes, howling nightly.

This lasted for about two weeks. Then she began hearing only one coyote howling in a distressed fashion. Soon after this, the coyote howls stopped and the Atkinsons assumed the wild creatures had left the area, until Genera and Larson viewed the coyotes in the past few weeks, Karen Atkinson said.

The couple has begun to keep their two cats inside in the early morning and overnight, she said.

Genera suspects some of his neighbors’ animals may have already faced their demise. He has seen coyote remnants — scat with fur in it — lining the parking lot where narrow trails, used by the coyotes to traverse the vegetation between the BPA Trail and the apartment parking lot, are eminent, Genera said.

The coyotes’ presence so close to where children reside slightly worries Genera.

“They have no fear of humans,” he said. “They are opportunists.”

At times, small children play around the apartment complex. The coyotes have not harmed any humans, but they also do not appear to be afraid of them, Genera said. He made eye contact with the last coyote he saw. It slowly turned and walked away, only to glance back at him, Genera said. Children who see the animals may mistake the creatures for friendly dogs, he said.

Genera has spoken with grounds maintenance personnel at East Cove Apartments and suggested a bulletin, warning of the coyotes’ presence, be distributed to the complex’s residents.

Jim Atkinson has been a maintenance man at the apartments for 17 years. He talks with Genera regularly and also suggested to the complex’s office personnel that residents be made aware of the coyote presence, he said.

But this has not yet been done. Problems in the apartment complex are usually handled in a timely fashion, Jim Atkinson said.

Karen Atkinson called Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in June to report the coyotes, but she was told there was nothing the department could do about the animals, she said. The Atkinsons do not feel the coyotes are likely to attack a person, but if they should, the Atkinsons plan to make another call to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Karen Atkinson said.

For now, the biggest concern to the Atkinsons and Genera is that of the pets in the area.

Genera does not dislike the wildlife or wish to harm the coyotes, but he does worry about how bold they have become, he said. The Atkinsons realize that much of the coyotes’ natural habitat has been compromised by humans in the past decade, and that has forced the creatures to show themselves in populated areas.

“We don’t want to scare people, just make them aware,” Karen Atkinson said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

For information on coyotes’ living and eating habits visit the “Living with Wildlife” Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Web site at wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/living/coyotes.htm#problems.

Often times coyotes become aggressive and lose their fear of humans only after they have become accustomed to people providing them food, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s “Living with Wildlife” Web site, found at wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/living/coyotes.htm#problems. Garbage, pet food and livestock carcasses should not be kept in an area that is accessible by coyotes, according to the site.

In their natural habitat coyotes generally eat mice, rats, gophers, mountain beavers, rabbits, squirrels, snakes, lizards, frogs, fish, birds, grass, fruits and berries, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Web site. However, they have been known to eat cats and small dogs as well, according to the Web site.

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