Well-fed coyotes on the prowl
Numerous sightings noted in local areas
Howls in the night. Strange, rustling steps on leaf-covered lawns. Worried pets. Missing cats.
And close encounters of the furry, four-legged kind.
Coyotes aren't just in the desert anymore. They are right here in Lake Oswego and West Linn, and from the increasing number of reports, their population could well be growing.
Local authorities don't believe there is reason to worry about the hungry critters, but evidently coyotes are adjusting very well and assimilating to this area's upscale style.
'The ones you see have no sense of urgency,' said Ken Guerins of West Linn. 'They're not running away. They're strolling.
'One of our friends saw one walking down the street at 10:30 in the morning. All of the cars were stopped because they were amazed by this coyote.'
'I'm surprised at how healthy they look,' said Janet Powers, who lives in the Westlake neighborhood of Lake Oswego. 'They seem happy. They have nice fluffy fur. They look well fed. They don't look scroungy at all. They're not like Wile E. Coyote.'
Far be it for a Lake Oswego coyote to be scroungy. And there's nothing wrong with their dental work, either. Coyotes have a reputation for being voraciously hungry, and if they are getting bold enough to walk the streets of Lake Oswego and West Linn, is there reason for local folks to worry?
'No,' says Capt. Mike Hammons of the Lake Oswego Police Department.
'There's no upsurge in our coyote population,' Hammons said. 'Coyotes have been in this town a long time. They're highly adaptive animals. Many cities are finding coyotes moving in and living there.
'Here we have our share of them. Coyotes are opportunists. Their main function is eating. They come back to eat your cat food. Then they come back to eat your cat. But they're not dangerous to people. They want less to do with you than you want to do with them.'
Hammons also noted, 'We have some of the best looking coyotes around. They're sleek and they have nice fur.'
Powers suspects that the reason local coyotes have such a nice, sleek look is that they are eating cats.
'I've never seen so many missing cat signs hung up around the neighborhood,' she said. 'My neighbor Jennifer Henninger is positive that coyotes ate her cat.'
Powers and her children and pets live in a very nice Westlake home, but as far as Lake Oswego goes they are living right in coyote country. Their yard borders a protected wetlands area from which the coyotes can slip in and out like ghosts.
Only sometimes Powers and her son Stevie see the coyotes before they can slip away. One time Stevie used his video camera to take an extremely brief video of a coyote before it disappeared back into the wetland.
'Everyone in our neighborhood has seen one or two coyotes,' she said.
Powers is not a woman easily spooked by animals. Five raccoons once confronted her in her washroom. They had all snuck in through the dog door to do some late night dining on dog food.
Powers even managed to trap a raccoon and 'I entered the raccoon relocation program.' That meant she had the raccoon shipped to a wildlife area rather than having it terminated.
But coyotes are a different matter for her.
'One time I was barbecuing steaks at night and I heard these noises,' Powers said. 'I left two raw steaks on the barbecue and I burned them because I was afraid to go back out. Personally, I thought it was a werewolf.'
Since coyotes have become part of her life lately, Powers has hit the Internet to find some most interesting coyote facts. Interesting enough to make her wary of barbecuing steaks too late at night.
'Coyotes can jump 4 meters and they can travel 4 kilometers,' Powers said. 'I've heard coyotes have overrun Golden Gate Park, and I saw an article about coyotes overrunning Beaverton.
'One or two coyotes don't bother me. Three, that bothers me.'
Yet it is the noises that coyotes make that cause Powers and her neighbors the most concern. Pets, too. Buster the golden retriever and Rascal the black cat have been known to sit side by side, staring at the door after hearing soft feet crunching on the leaves outside.
'The coyotes know there are animals in here,' said Powers, who would hate to put up a missing cat poster for Rascal. 'All our neighbors communicate about them. (One recent) night they had a howl-fest and creeped us all out.'
'One night there was the most awful yapping,' Stevie said. 'Like something was being attacked.'
Coyotes even seem to like the college life. At least they have been hanging out near Marylhurst University between Lake Oswego and West Linn.
'There are tons of coyotes out there,' said nearby homeowner Bonnie Freistone. 'I see them when I'm out running in the morning, and they're so tame I have to shoo them away. I see them at the field next to Marylhurst University eating rodents.'
'I've been awakened from a dead sleep at night from their howling and screaming,' said Donna Lindell. 'That's what they do when they have a prey.'
People in their neighborhood are apparently quite coyote-friendly, which Freistone does not understand.
'You see them walking down the street,' Freistone said. 'I'm from Montana and they don't treat coyotes that way there. They shoot them.'
Coyotes are also making themselves at home in the suburban neighborhoods of West Linn. Kennedy Monihan, 12, and Cailinn Guerins, 11, one morning encountered a four-legged stranger while on their way to Rosemont Ridge Middle School. (Monihan is the daughter of Review Publisher J. Brian Monihan).
'There was just one,' said Cailin, who got an excellent look at the coyote. 'It was light brown, white, gray and tan, and it was at least 3 feet high. It was the first time I've ever seen a coyote. It looked pretty scared.'
So were the girls.
'It was two arm lengths away,' said Cailin. 'I was really scared.'
'I was freaked out,' Kennedy said.
But the girls learned a quick lesson on how to deal with coyotes.
'We stopped by our other friend's house,' Kennedy said. 'Ellen came out and said to open our coats so we would look bigger. I think she'd seen a cougar before.'
'It started running and it was going really fast,' Cailin said. 'It ran real fast.'
Still, scary noises and sudden encounters aside, Hammons says coyotes are not dangerous to humans. People just need to take normal precautions, like keeping the cat indoors and bringing in the dog if a coyote shows up in their backyard.
'Coyotes are wild animals, so treat them as such,' Hammons said. 'Don't approach them.'
Also, don't harm them.
'Coyotes fall under the jurisdiction of the state,' Hammons said. 'They have every right to be here, and they will be here long after we're gone.
'If you see a coyote and it gets too close, jump up and down and shout. If they don't run away, let us know (at 503-635-0238). We would appreciate it so we can have a frame of reference.'
For more information about coyotes, visit the Web site www.desertusa.com .