On Wednesday, March 2, the Larchmont Buzz and the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council co-sponsored a Town Hall meeting to discuss the hot local topic of urban wildlife (especially coyote) management, and opportunities to train community volunteers for a new Wildlife Watch program.
With sightings of coyotes (not to mention raccoons, opossums, and other urban wildlife) becoming increasingly common in our neighborhoods, and spring breeding season upon us, Los Angeles Department of Animal Services Officer Hoang Dinh and California State Department of Fish and Wildlife Lt. Kent Smirl, who led the meeting, said it’s a great time to learn more about coyotes and other local wildlife, and they provided an extensive array of facts, advice and resources on the subject.
To help communicate as much of their valuable information as possible, The Buzz is presenting a summary of the discussion in four parts. Today’s story talks about the goals of local wildlife agencies, and provides tips for minimizing wildlife (especially coyote) activity in our residential areas.
Coyote Management Philosophy and Goals
According to both of the wildlife officers at Wednesday’s meeting, the goal of both state and city wildlife management is not to remove coyotes from our neighborhoods (they’re here naturally, and their pesence is part of a healthy ecosystem), but to prevent negative incidents that would require the coyotes’ removal. Instead, according to Dinh, we need to restore the natural balance of food and predators in our neighborhoods, so coyotes will stay out of sight and not regularly interact with humans or their pets.
“It’s great if you don’t see them,” he said. “That’s what we want. The best case is they fear humans and stay out of sight.” And the best way to achieve that, he said, is to allow nature to take its course: take away the coyotes’ food and shelter, and they’ll relocate themselves.
Another key factor for good wildlife management, according to Dinh, is education – residents need to learn how to anticipate and minimize possible danger, which can also keep unfortunate incidents from happening. “The overall goal is to reach a better balance with nature,” he said, “and to enjoy nature.”
Wildlife Prevention Tips
So how can we be proactive and prevent negative wildlife interactions? There are actually many things residents can do. Bur first and foremost is DON’T FEED our wildlife…either intentionally, by leaving food out for animals…or unintentionally, by allowing trash to accumulate. The absolute best way to control coyotes (and other unwanted wildlife, such as raccoons and rats), according to both Officer Dinh and Lt. Smirl, is to simply remove their food sources. But there are other things we can do, too:
– First of all, it really does take a village…in the form of strong community efforts to clean up trash, trim brush, maintain vacant properties, and watch for people who feed animals, or leave food out for them.
– Report (by sending an e-mail to Officer Dinh at firstname.lastname@example.org) any unusual activity in your area (including both wildlife activity and people who feed animals irresponsibly or leave food out).
– Always walk dogs on a leash. And make sure the leash is less than 6 feet long – it’s safer, shows the dog you’re in charge, and it’s legal (leashes more than six feet long are illegal in Los Angeles). Unfortunately, said Officer Dinh, he still sees a lot of dogs being walked off leash in Windsor Village and other neighborhoods where there has been a lot of coyote activity.
– Walk with a partner, whenever possible. (Note that this also helps prevent attacks by “2-legged (human) predators,” according to Dinh…and he reminded us that those are much more common than animal attacks.)
– If you’re hiring a contractor for a construction project, talk to them about site management (including trash pickup), and make sure they understand potential wildlife issues at their sites.
– Minimize trash (especially food trash) however and whenever you can. In other words, reduce, re-use, and recycle. (Note that while food-related trash attracts wildlife, other kinds of trash such as cans and bottles can be dangerous to all kinds of animals – they can get heads or other body parts stuck in containers or plastic items. In addition to not providing extra food, we want to keep our wanted wildlife safe.)
– Reduce and/or remove other kinds of food sources (e.g. fruit trees and their fallen fruit).
– Trim back dense vegetation, which not only provides shelter for coyotes, but also rodents that coyotes eat.
– “Clean up and seal up” openings in walls and buildings to prevent both coyote and rodents from entering and breeding there.
– Eliminate open or exposed crawlspaces.
– Don’t feed your pets outside (or, if you do, stay with them while they eat and then remove the food dish immediately when they’re done). According to Officer Dinh, pet foods contain ingredients that deliberately enhance their smells to make them more palatable to your pets…which also make them especially attractive to coyotes.
– Don’t leave food out for squirrels or other wildlife. While it may feel good to feed the animals, it disrupts nature’s balance and causes over-population. Nature will properly balance the wildlife population on its own, if we give it the chance. (Also, feeding squirrels leads to their overpopulation, which creates other issues when they carry fleas, plague and other diseases.)
– Don’t carry pet treats when walking your dogs. Again, the scent is also very attractive to coyotes.
– Try not to walk with food residue on your clothes. (Your dinner smells yummy to the animals, too.)
– Children should always walk in groups…and take extra care if they carry lunches to school.
– Coyotes find reassurance in routine and sense risk in change. So don’t walk your dogs on the same route at the same time every night. And note that even just rearranging your patio furniture can make coyotes wary and more likely to stay away.
– You can install “coyote rollers” on the tops of your fences, but they’re expensive, and coyotes may still be able to slip between the fence posts or slats, if they’re too wide, or dig under a fence.
– Minimize bird seed. Coyotes can eat it…but they’re even more likely to eat the other creatures (birds, squirrels) who are attracted to the birdseed.
– The signs created last year by neighbors in Windsor Square and Windsor Village, said Officer Dinh, are great to get the word out about coyote presence in the area, and would be useful in all our local neighborhoods. (According to Windsor Square resident John Welborne, who worked on the sign project, there are still about 50 signs left, and they are available for neighbors who want them.) The signs could be even better, Dinh said, if they included a warning or some sort of graphic reminding people not to feed the coyotes.
On Monday: Coyote Encounter and Hazing Tips