Coyotes kill again on Maxwelton

Deborah Ogden pulls a turkey apparently killed by a coyote from under a tree at the home of her parents-in-law at Clinton. The turkey and dozens of chickens were victims of the second attack at the home this year. - Matt Johnson
Deborah Ogden pulls a turkey apparently killed by a coyote from under a tree at the home of her parents-in-law at Clinton. The turkey and dozens of chickens were victims of the second attack at the home this year.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

The coyotes that live near Mel and Frances Ogden's home are a little too smart for the good of their chickens, turkeys and geese.

With the return of cold weather, hungry coyotes have been digging under the fences that are supposed to protect the couple's birds and have made off with dozens of birds in the early morning hours.

When Frances found the last of her pet turkeys half eaten outside its pen last week, it was the last straw. She'll do almost anything now to get rid of the wild canines.

"I am a little sick of this thing," said Ogden, who lost two pygmy goats and dozens of fowl to dogs or coyotes last year. "I think it's time somebody did something about wildlife."

Ogden said she is frustrated with laws that prevent her and her husband from doing something that will stop the attacks in the pens behind their Maxwelton Road home. Forbidden by law from trapping the animals and limited by age from hunting the animals down themselves, the two, who are in their 70s, want to find a way to foil Wile E. Coyote.

Triple fencing hasn't worked, nor has shooting guns in the air. A snare trap loaned to them by the U.S. Department of Agriculture was no obstacle to the coyote that pulled off the latest raids in the farm yard -- it simply dug beneath the trap.

Even coyotes' well-known fear of humans hasn't done the trick. Deborah Ogden, Mel and Frances' daughter-in-law, said she went one-one-one with a coyote a month ago when the predator dragged a goose out of its pen and toward the woods. She said she had a tug-of-war with the coyote before the animal dropped the goose, which was alive, but traumatized.

The family does not have many options for getting rid of their coyote problem. Even the USDA, which has been the farmer's ally for decades in controlling wild predators, was of little help. Keel Price, a supervisor with the USDA's Animal Damage Control Division, said his agency has no funding to do the trapping work it did in the past. He said he and other canine specialists at the agency can offer technical assistance, but it is up to livestock owners to do the actual trapping, shooting, or fencing USDA staff might recommend.

"There is at this time no funding for direct control," he said.

Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife has more to offer than the USDA. Sean Carrell, a customers service specialist with the agency, said fish and wildlife keeps a file of licensed trappers on hand for livestock owners with predator problems. Some of those trappers, he said, will even do the job for free.

"We'll give them as many names as they can write down," Carrell said.

While the latest attacks at the Ogden home are only the second such occurrence in the 30 years they've lived on Maxwelton Road, other livestock owners resign themselves to the fact that coyotes will take a certain number of their animals no matter what they do. Beverly Graham, who raises chickens, ducks, and geese on her Clinton acreage, said even with a Tibetan mastiff dog and coyote-hating llamas on patrol, her home still deserves the name she gave it several years ago -- The Bad Animal Farm and Coyote Cafe.

Last summer, Graham lost more than 30 chickens to coyotes, raptors, and owls.

She said it bothers her when predators take her animals, which she considers pets. But she said she will not actively try to kill or trap the invading coyotes and birds.

"I think there's nothing you can do," she said. "They have to live too."

The Ogdens don't exactly agree. Frances Ogden said she hopes to find someone who can help keep her birds and goats from becoming meals for coyotes.

It is legal for livestock owners to kill a coyote in the act of attacking livestock, even without a hunting permit. Washington state also offers year-round coyote hunting permits.

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