A terrifying coyote attack in Edmonds

Neighbors save the life of a Sheetzu; incident caught on video
By Brian Soergel | May 16, 2018
Photo by: Brian Soergel Bridget Clawson bonds with Oliver in her backyard. It was on the slope behind them where a coyote attacked Oliver.

Thanks to quick-thinking neighbors, a scruffy 10-year-old dog named Oliver has a new lease on life.

It was Sunday, May 6, and Bridget Clawson was enjoying watching her two grandchildren at her home on 83rd Avenue West, near the entrance to woodsy Pine Ridge Park in Edmonds.

At around 8:45 a.m., Oliver – a Sheetzu – wandered onto his back porch to sniff around and relieve himself. He was in familiar territory. Clawson’s backyard is flat for a stretch, then veers up a densely wooded bank, where Oliver rarely paws around.

Meanwhile, Keisha and Zach Kimball were enjoying their Sunday with their 16-month-old daughter. Keisha spotted the coyote first, and Zach, who was on the third floor of their split-level home, began filming on his cellphone camera.

At first, he followed the coyote as it roamed the top of Clawson’s property. After 15 minutes, Zach heard the loud squawking of crows and started filming again. What he saw was terrifying – the coyote had tiny Oliver clenched in its jaws, shaking it back and forth.

On the video, you hear Keisha moaning “Oh,” while Oliver’s anguished cries pierce the quiet morning as the coyote violently whips him around in his jaws.

“Oh, my God,” Keisha cries. “It’s a dog.” As Zach continues filming – he’s transfixed, he said later, and feels bad that he didn’t stop filming earlier – Keisha runs outside, clapping her hands and yelling “Hey!” to scare the coyote away.

It worked. As the video ends, you see Oliver running back to the safety of his house.

“Keisha had the presence of mind to scream and make a lot of noise at the coyote, which dropped Oliver,” Clawson said this week from her home. She has seen the video. “Oliver booked it into the house.”

But Clawson didn’t know that at the time.

Hearing the commotion, Clawson – inside her house – stopped what she was doing. “When I came out of the back room, there was blood splatter on the walls of the hallway kitchen, front room and dining room. It was just like a crime scene. I didn’t know what had happened. I went through a moment of terror when I thought something had happened to one of my grandchildren.”

Then she spied Oliver on the rug in the front room, collapsed, blood dripping from his throat.

“I thought he was dead,” she said.

It was then that Keisha rapped loudly on Clawson’s front door and told her what had unfolded. Other neighbors had heard the commotion, too – coyotes are common in the area – and one took a look at Oliver and suggest Clawson immediately take him to a vet hospital.

She called her son, who drove her and Oliver to Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle on 44th Avenue West in Lynnwood.

While Clawson and her son waited, veterinarians quickly operated on Oliver, pumping in a blood transfusion and suturing up his wound to stanch the blood loss.

Clawson was able to take Oliver – full of antibiotics and woozy from painkillers, but otherwise OK – home that night.

She’s grateful for all of her neighbors who helped, in addition to the Kimballs.

“While I was at the emergency room with Oliver, my next-door neighbors came over and cleaned up all the blood,” she said.

After a few days, Oliver was back to normal. Cute as ever. But the incident understandably shook Clawson. “The neighbors say they see coyotes a lot here near Pine Ridge Park, which is an extension of Yost Park. I had always thought, though, that they just prowled in the early morning or late at night.”

But that’s not the case, according to Daniel Alvarez, a wildlife control operator servicing Snohomish County through the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

He told Clawson that coyotes might have been watching Clawson and Oliver’s activities – essentially spying on them.

“He said they would have watched me let him out,” Clawson said, “and when I didn’t come back out, they took the chance of going where humans are because they were pretty confident I wouldn’t be out here.”

In other words, the coyote cased out the property before attacking.

“If you live in their territory, they’re watching you all the time,” she said. “They don’t do it because they’re full of malice; they do it because they’re hungry. I never thought a coyote would come that close to the house, but Fish and Wildlife said they’ve probably been watching me and Oliver for a while.”

In any case, Alvarez said he’d come out to take a look, as it was possible coyotes had several dens in the area.

But Clawson hesitated. Would it increase her safety if the coyote were killed? she asked. How would she know if the coyote that attacked Oliver would be the one who was killed? Would her grandchildren be able to play safely outside?

Not necessarily, Alvarez told her. The problem, he said, is the overpopulation of coyotes in the area, combined with the increased encroachment of their territory. Clawson decided not to take any further action, but instead vowed to be better prepared.

She plans to install a “critter fence” on her backyard slope. She is a gardener who has transformed her backyard from a plain landscape to a beautiful oasis since buying it nearly five year ago. She said the fence won’t be the most pleasant thing to look at, but still.

“The trapper (Alvarez) said coyotes will not scale a fence or dig under a fence for a child. I’m going to put one up because I’ve got six grandchildren.”

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reports that there were no documented coyote attacks on humans in the state until 2006. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers euthanized two coyotes in Bellevue after two young children were bitten while their parents were nearby. These coyotes’ unusually aggressive behavior likely resulted from being fed by people, the department said.

Clawson said she feels no revenge toward the coyotes, even though attacking Oliver at his back door has cost her thousands of dollars in vet bills and will cost an estimated $5,000 for the fence.

“I want to find a way to live with them safely,” she said. “I’m telling you this in hopes that Oliver’s experience won’t cause people to hate coyotes. A few alterations to my life, such as going out in the back garden with him, are not so much. Oliver doesn’t go out alone anymore. And there are always expenses that come up that I don’t expect. That’s life.”

Here is the video of the coyote attack, with permission from Zach Kimball and Bridget Clawson. Warning: The video may be disturbing to some.

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