Letters to the Editor

Surrounded by aggressive pack of coyotes | Federal Way letters

It has come to my attention that Elisa Hahn, from King 5 News, presented a report on the Sept. 20 newscast about a woman who was walking her two dogs in West Hylebos Park and was surrounded by an aggressive pack of coyotes.

I write the West Hylebos Park Blog From The Bog and would like to clarify several issues.

The area in which the woman in the video was walking her dogs and had the aggressive coyote encounter is not West Hylebos Park. I repeat, the coyote encounter was not in the park. The area in question is an open field, off of Highway 99, near 336th Street, leading down to a wooded area containing a variety of large concrete structures whose purpose is unknown to me. This area is a good distance north of the park and is not connected to the park in any way.

I am very familiar with the area where the coyote encounter occurred. The area is isolated, there’s a huge homeless camp abutting the trail on the north, and all of the concrete structures back there are tagged with copious amounts of gang graffiti. Walking that trail, with or without dogs and/or coyotes, will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. It’s not a safe place to walk.

Dogs are not allowed in West Hylebos Park. The park is posted “No Dogs Allowed” in several locations, not only in words, but also using the international “not allowed” symbol.

I encounter people walking their dogs in the park quite frequently and, when I inform them that dogs aren’t allowed in the park, they always tell me that they didn’t know that. I don’t buy it. The signs are prominent, obvious and located at the head of the trail.

I blog about the fact that dogs aren’t allowed in the park at least four or five times a year and each time I write one of these blogs, I reiterate the fact that dogs and coyotes don’t mix and that coyotes will attack, kill and eat your dogs.

I have witnessed coyotes doing just exactly that with my own two eyes! You ignore this warning at your own risk. If you truly love your pet, leave it at home!

There are coyotes all over Federal Way, including West Hylebos Park, the BPA Trail, and near the Twin Lakes Golf Course. I even saw one sneaking out of the Saghalie Middle School grounds one morning.

I’ve been working in West Hylebos Park for 11 years now and have had numerous coyote encounters there, but I have never, ever felt threatened by them. Usually, they’ll stare at me, I’ll stare at them, then “POOF!” — they vanish like smoke. Once, when I was searching in vain for something and couldn’t find it, a coyote actually led me over to the spot where it was sitting, then the coyote vanished into thin air. From my experience, I believe that the coyotes were not being aggressive toward this woman and would not have threatened her had she been walking alone. I think the aggressive behavior displayed by the pack of coyotes was generated by the presence of the dogs.

This is the time of the year when you’re most likely to have a coyote encounter in West Hylebos Park. I’ve been finding coyote scat on the boardwalk trail and around Marlake for weeks now. They leave it sitting right in the middle of the trail as a way to mark the territory as theirs. There are probably as many as seven coyotes living in the park at the moment, as the pack of five gave birth to two cubs this spring.

Although coyotes seem to be most active at dusk, which is when you’re most likely to hear them yipping and howling, I’ve spotted coyotes in the park at all times of the day. At least four different people have told me that they’ve spotted a huge fox in the park during the last two weeks.  Although I have spotted a fox in the area before, it was a normal-sized fox. I believe that what these people are seeing is probably not a huge fox, but one of the coyotes.

Unlike the isolated trail the woman in the video had her coyote encounter on, the trail at West Hylebos Park sees a large number of visitors annually and there has never been a report of any aggressive behavior on the part of the coyotes toward any of the visitors to date.

Obey the signs, leave your pets at home, stay on the boardwalk trail, and count yourself lucky if you manage to sight a coyote in the wild.

Teri I. Lenfest, West Hylebos Park Blog From The Bog


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