In the last few weeks we’ve heard reports of coyote sightings in the Brookside, Fremont Place and Hancock Park areas. One person reported on Nextdoor.com that her dog had been critically wounded in an attack and has subsequently died. It’s terrible news. Unfortunately, since it’s pupping season and there are more animals and likely to be even more sightings, residents are urged to be aware and vigilant to protect small pets.
Over the last few years, we’ve written a number of stories about coyote sightings. So we thought it was a good time to remind residents about how we can co-exist with these urban predators, who are a natural part of our neighborhoods. The information below was provided by Los Angeles Department of Animal Services Officer Hoang Dinh and California State Department of Fish and Wildlife Lt. Kent Smirl, at a Buzz-sponsored Town Hall meeting on urban wildlife issues, including coyotes, in 2016.
Here are some points worth remembering from their talk:
- Coyotes don’t just live in the hills, and are not new in our area. They’ve always been here, but traditionally stay out of sight. As our human population grows, however, we provide coyotes and other wildlife with increasing scents and sources of food (trash, litter, pets, etc.), as well as numerous places to shelter. So the animals have become more comfortable in more heavily populated areas…and with lots of food and hiding places, residential neighborhoods are naturally very attractive to them.
- If nature is in balance, coyotes usually stay out of sight. If you’re seeing too many coyotes, it means there’s too much food for them and their population is growing too quickly.
- If a coyote finds food and shelter in your area, it will stay, settle in and breed. If it doesn’t…it won’t.
- Spring is breeding season for coyotes, so you may be seeing mothers now with new pups.
- Coyotes usually prefer smaller prey, but they may go after bigger animals (including bigger dogs) during breeding season.
- That said, however, dangerous incidents related to coyotes can be avoided. (See the coyote encounter and hazing tips, below)
- Rule #1 – Don’t feed or shelter coyotes, either intentionally or unintentionally. Help with neighborhood efforts to clean up trash, trim brush, maintain vacant properties, and watch for people who feed animals, or leave food out for them.
- Never leave food out for any kind of animal – it can attract vermin and predators in addition to pets or feral cats.
- 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).
- Walk with a partner, whenever possible (which also helps with safety from “2-legged (human) predators”.
- If you hire contractors 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.
- 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 (including open or exposed crawlspaces) to prevent both coyotes and rodents from entering and breeding there.
- Don’t carry pet treats when walking your dogs. The scent is very attractive to coyotes, just as it is for your pets.
- 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. Even just rearranging your patio furniture can make coyotes wary and more likely to stay away.
- The technique of making yourself big and scary to a coyote is called “hazing.” It works because coyotes calculate risks vs. rewards very carefully, and hazing lets them know they’re not welcome.
- The first step in coyote hazing is to maintain eye contact, which is an intimidating gesture.
- Hold and wave a stick (or other threatening-looking item) high up over your head, to make you look bigger and even more opposing.
- Throw your stick or other item in the animal’s general direction.
- Noisy items, like loud shakers (e.g. a soda can filled with pea gravel or pennies) and whistles can also help scare off coyotes, but they should be combined with making yourself look big and intimidating at the same time.
- Don’t scream in a high-pitched voice – it makes you look vulnerable. Instead, growl or roar at the coyote.
- Do something unexpected. Coyotes learn quickly, so if every time they see a human, the human just reaches for its phone, or puts its hands up in the same way, the coyote won’t read it as a threat. The gesture should be big and different from what the animal has seen humans do before.
- Don’t get too bold in chasing the coyote, and don’t corner it where it has no choice but to fight.
- Slowly back away.
- Hazing coyotes teaches them to be afraid of you (and other people)…which doesn’t hurt the coyote, but makes it less comfortable, less likely to settle in, and more likely to move on from its current surroundings, which is exactly what we want.
For more information, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services also has some great information about urban predatory wildlife (including why the city doesn’t just kill or relocate coyotes) at http://www.laanimalservices.com/about-animals/wildlife/.