News

Coyotes raising their hungry heads: Pets beware

By PAT JENKINS

The Mirror

Depending on who's talking, coyotes or "some crazy person" are responsible for the killings of at least three cats and a dog in an area of Federal Way.

On Aug. 11, the city's Police Department announced in a press release that it was "investigating several cases of animal cruelty involving the mutilation of cats" and a "small dog." Officials said the incidents occurred since May –– two of them in August –– and warned the public citywide to watch out for their pets' safety.

About that time and since then, owners of the pets have heard different accounts of how the animals may have died, leaving some people unsettled.

Responding to a report of the police advisory in The Mirror Aug. 13, the owner of one of the killed cats said a King County Animal Control official told him that a coyote was probably the culprit. But a relative of the owner of another victimized cat said a landscaper who found the animal's remains believes it died at a human's hands.

Based on the wounds inflicted on three of the animals, police haven't ruled out the possibility that people caused some of the deaths.

However, the carcass of one of the cats was examined by a veterinarian who concluded it was killed and partially eaten by another animal, said Walt Williams, manager of animal control for the county.

He said the bodies of the other three animals weren't given to animal control officials for inspection, so it's unknown how they died.

According to the Police Department, the pets' bodies were found in an area bordered by South 320th Street, First Way South, Southwest Dash Point Road and Pacific Highway South.

A woman who called The Mirror said the remains of her relative's cat, which had been missing for two weeks, and two other cats were found by a landscaper working in the area. He claimed the bodies had suffered clean cuts, as if by a machete, the woman said.

"His face was gray. He was sickened by what he saw," she said.

She added she suspects someone is behind the animal deaths.

Meanwhile, a man who also called the newspaper said he believes an animal control official's theory that a coyote probably killed his cat. The official didn't see the remains but, when contacted, said such attacks are common, the pet's owner related.

"It's better knowing that's how it died than wondering if some crazy person killed it," he said.

A neighbor found the cat's body in a parking lot at a church and recognized it, the owner said; otherwise, the animal's fate might never have been known because it wasn't wearing a license.

The callers to The Mirror aren't being identified because they're trying to spare their children the news that their family pets died violently.

Williams said it's unlikely that any of the pets were killed by people. "It's very rare –– maybe two cases a year," usually in the county's north end around Halloween when ritualistic sacrifices are reported, he said.

Coyotes are a common killer of pets, Williams said, adding animal control officers have seen coyotes in a greenbelt near the area of the recent incidents in Federal Way.

Coyotes eat small mammals, a problem for pet owners as the habitats of humans and coyotes merge. Cats and small dogs have been killed and eaten by coyotes in Washington, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which keeps records of reported incidents and has noted the rate is increasing in relation to urban sprawl.

The department, which estimates 50,000 coyotes live in Washington, has no documented reports of coyote attacks on humans. But they coexist.

"Coyotes are practically everywhere. I've heard them howling on Capitol Hill in Seattle," said Doug Williams, a Fish and Wildlife spokesman. "It certainly wouldn't be unusual to find them in Federal Way, what with the ravines and wooded areas there."

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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