Local

That coyote pup and its happy ending? The trapper lied. Now he's under investigation

The trapper who removed a month-old coyote pup from a Kennewick home lied to the homeowner and police about releasing it into the wild.

Don Caraway, a state-authorized wildlife control officer, kept the animal at his Kennewick home for a day and then drowned and buried it in his backyard, state Department of Fish & Wildlife officials confirmed Thursday.

"I never would have let that guy take him under those circumstances," said Jake McChesney, who found the coyote in his kitchen Monday.

Drowning is considered inhumane and is prohibited for disposing of nuisance animals, according to state wildlife officials.

The agency is now investigating Caraway's handling of the pup.

The Herald could not reach Caraway, a licensed wildlife control officer since 2001, by phone or email.

It's not the happy ending that McChesney was told would happen.

McChesney called Kennewick police Monday afternoon when he found the young coyote curled up on his kitchen floor after it apparently got inside through a pet door.

Officer Tony Valdez called the independent state contractor to catch the animal. And Caraway said he would release it in the Horse Heaven Hills.

However, McChesney said Sydney Pelletier, who reached out to him later, went by Caraway's home on Tuesday and saw the coyote still caged.

Pelletier told the Herald she asked to take photos of it, which Caraway allowed.

coyote cage FIXE.jpg
The coyote pup captured from a Kennewick home Monday is seen here Tuesday still in its cage on the trapper's property. The state Department of Fish & Wildlife later confirmed the trapper, Don Caraway, killed the coyote. Sydney Pelletier

"He said he was going to drown and skin it," Pelletier told the Herald. "Then he kind of laughed it off."

The practice of drowning nuisance animals already has been called into question.

The state is being sued in Whatcom County, where a county animal control officer wants state-licensed trappers to stop drowning squirrels.

"If you euthanize an animal, you must use humane methods to do so," the department says on its website.

Drowning is already a prohibited practice for wildlife control officers unless under narrow circumstances, said Craig Bartlett, the department's public information officer.

Those circumstances boil down to using a special trap, which Caraway did not use to capture the coyote pup.

coyote capture 1.jpg
Don Caraway, a state-licensed trapper, carries away a coyote he captured from a Kennewick home Monday. Kennewick Police Department

After finding out that Caraway still had the pup at his home, McChesney said he and Pelletier called Fish & Wildlife officials Tuesday to complain.

Pelletier also said she and her friend, Carri Slaugenhaupt, had called several organizations to take the pup to an Olympia-area rescue.

Bartlett said when Fish & Wildlife officers learned of McChesney's complaints Wednesday morning, they drove to Caraway's house to interview him.

Caraway confirmed he drowned the pup late Tuesday or early Wednesday, Bartlett said.

He dug up the carcass from a spot in his backyard to show them.

Wildlife Officer Kourtney Siess then called McChesney late Wednesday.

"I said I wanted to file a complaint, and all she did was apologize to me," McChesney said. "And I told her I didn't want your apology — it means nothing because you did nothing."

Bartlett said that the pup — being so young and away from its mother — likely had little chance of surviving in the wild. And he said letting the animal go on another person's land, or even public land, wasn't a viable option.

"Transferring live wildlife is generally prohibited under state law," Bartlett said.

Caraway could have shot the pup instead, which is considered a humane way of killing it, Bartlett said.

Bartlett confirmed to the Herald that the department is investigating the incident. If Caraway is found to have violated department procedures, his license could be revoked.

Jake Dorsey: 509-582-1405
  Comments