City rescues wily coyotes
July 16, 2009
By J.B. Wogan
New July 16 1:09 p.m.
It took five maintenance workers employees, two soccer balls and about 12 feet of pipe, but they got the baby coyote out. The only problem was, there was a second coyote in the Highland Creek Estates stormwater sewer, and the city’s maintenance workers couldn’t figure out where.
The incident began at about 9:30 p.m. July 14 when Shelagh Stoa decided that enough was enough — someone had to rescue the two baby coyotes from the stormwater sewers outside her house.
“I had to listen to those things crying for three nights,” Stoa said. She spent the evening calling public agencies, but it wasn’t until the next morning that she found one willing to help. Maintenance workers from the city’s Public Works Department said they would come out and take a look.
“Within 20 minutes they had someone on their way,” Stoa said.
Kyle Endelman, infrastructure maintenance manager, visited the site on the afternoon July 15, after a morning rescue attempt had failed. Endelman said having large animals stuck in the stormwater sewer was more than unusual.
“I’ve never even heard of it happening,” he said.
Public Works Director John Cunningham said the city once had a problem with baby ducklings falling through a stormwater grate, but never anything bigger.
Endelman had his team split up, crouching by different openings along the sewer line and sticking instruments down to inspect the area and stir the baby coyotes. No one knew exactly how to rescue coyotes from stormwater sewers, so they had to improvise.
To verify that a coyote wasn’t in a tunnel, one person shined a flashlight while another used a mirror to determine if a coyote’s silhouette appeared. They shoved long, thin piping in the sewer, which on one occasion paid Endelman back by flinging brown flecks of stormwater mud on his face and shirt.
“We’re not very good at this because we don’t do it that often,” he said, shaking his head.
Using orange cones to temporarily block off tunnels in the sewer system, Endelman’s team isolated one coyote and then flushed him out using small soccer balls. It took a handful of attempts before the soccer ball technique worked: each time a maintenance worker dropped a ball into the sewer, the sound of a coyote rustling to avoid the ball echoed up. Eventually, they ushered the coyote into a catch basin where someone was waiting with a net.
As a temporary holding pen, the team punctured air holes in a large cardboard box and stuffed the writhing coyote inside, taping the box shut. Within 20 minutes they had released the coyote into a fenced off wooded area behind the Highland Creek Estates neighborhood.
The second coyote was bigger and less willing to come out, but Endelman’s team kept trying. They added a basketball and feather duster to their set of improvised tools. Finally, they called Eastside Fire and Rescue, which used a water hose to force the coyote into a catch basin. They released him into the fenced off wooded area as well.
The rescue did have one hitch though, an EFR firefighter from station 82 in Sammamish, was bitten by the second coyote and is receiving shots for rabies.
Jody and Charles Riley came out of their house to watch the rescue attempt. Jody said a pack of five coyotes had appeared in the wooded area behind their backyard July 10 and she suspected the two baby coyotes were part of that group. The Rileys said they frequently see wildlife in their area, from a black bear to deer to a long-tailed weasel.
“I have no problem with them,” Jody said. “It’s part of living up against a greenbelt.”
Stoa said she was grateful for the Public Works Department’s prompt service. Had it not been for their efforts, the coyotes would still be in the sewers, she said.
As for the fates of the coyotes, she said she hoped they would be relocated to somewhere in less conflict with human development.
“It’s obviously very challenging for them living in an urban environment,” Stoa said. “I don’t think it’s fair to them that they’ve been put in this situation.”
Reporter J.B. Wogan can be reached at 392-6434, ext. 247, or firstname.lastname@example.org.