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Coyotes: Kill Them or Leave Them Alone?

A Department of Fish and Game biologist speaks with Patch about nuisance coyotes and what to do about them.

With a recent string of last week,  Altadena Patch readers have been having a debate over what actions are appropriate for dealing with a coyote once it has attacked local pets.

Some argue that we should leave the coyotes alone as the hills are part of their habitat, while others suggested they be trapped and relocated.

But relocation is the one thing that is not legally an option, according to Kevin Brennan, a senior biologist at the Department of Fish and Game.

Once a coyote gets used to living with people and finding food in their yards he does not go back to hunting and scavenging in the wild, Brennan said.  So a relocated coyote just becomes someone else's problem.

That narrows people's options down to two, Brennan said.

"I tell people to take a piece of paper, write 'leave the coyote alone' on one side, then flip it and write 'kill the coyote' on the other," Brennan said. "Those are your choices."

There are no laws that prevent people from killing the animals, Brennan said, though the Department of Fish and Game does not specifically advocate that as a course of action.

The department only ever gets involved in trapping and killing a coyote if one of them ends up going after a human being, Brennan said.  Those circumstances tend to be rare, he said.

Brennan lives in Idyllwild, a mountain town in the San Jacinto range in Riverside County, and said that in his neighborhood it is not uncommon for someone to shoot a coyote that is hanging around too much or targeting pets.

Of course, Brennan said, discharging a firearm in most urban and suburban areas is against the law and can be highly dangerous, so in a a place like Altadena, it is not a good option.

Fencing in yards and even using coyote rollers does not always work either once a coyote views a human neighborhood as a source of food, Brennan said.  Coyotes can jump high and can even get on a roof as a way to get to a backyard, he added.

In some places government plays more of a role in intervening with nuisance coyotes, Brennan said.  He noted that San Bernardino County, the city of Riverside and some other Inland Empire municipalities have contracts with trappers to get the coyotes and kill them if they become a problem in a neighborhood.

That option is rare in Los Angeles County, Brennan said, but it is not totally non-existent.

For example, the Huntington Gardens has a contract to trap and kill coyotes twice a year to keep the population under control.  That program attracted some media attention after an employee filmed a coyote caught in a neck snare and a wildlife nonprofit called Project Coyote began a public campaign to oppose the Huntington's program.

Until recently, the city of Arcadia also had contracted with a trapper to kill coyotes in the city.  The contract was opposed by Project Coyote and local wildlife advocates, and city officials in January.

The trapper who contracts with the Huntington Gardens was profiled in the Los Angeles Times here.

Bonnie Barron, a member of the San Gabriel Valley Friends of Wildlife, which campaigned against the Arcadia contract, said that the trapping programs are inhumane.  She believes that educating the public on how to prevent coyotes from becoming a problem is the best option.  Besides being inhumane, killing a couple of coyotes won't make a real difference in the problem, Barron argued.

"They are here to stay, so we need to get used to it," Barron said.

Stopping coyotes from becoming a problem in the first place is a challenge, Brennan said.  Responsible residents can do a lot to prevent nuisance coyotes, starting by securing garbage, keeping pets inside and keeping other food sources, like fallen fruit, out of the yard (a full list of tips can be found here and is also attached to this article). 

Unfortunately, Brennan said, there are still too many people leaving pet food out, and even some who think it is a good idea to give a coyote food. 

"People tend to not give wildlife the respect they deserve," Brennan said.

Because of that, coyote prevention is an uphill battle, Brennan said.  And once a coyote becomes a problem and targets pets and makes a neighborhood its habitat, it generally will not stop that behavior, he added.

WonderBarbie May 05, 2012 at 07:47 AM
James, why was your cat roaming in the street?
Dutch one February 25, 2013 at 05:55 PM
I see nothing wrong with getting rid of pests impeding on normal living around the home site. The coyotes are attracted by the possibility of food, not necessarily because they inhabited the area first. What difference does it make who was where first. I would not kill an animal for the sake of killing, only protecting, and I will protect as humanely as possible--for both sides. Two coyotes were on my patio this morning, when we let our dog out, we are new to the area, she (our dog) was shook up--I looked on line for solutions, and common sense is one of the solutions. I will use it, traps, pellets, electric fencing, and I will not hesitate to destroy the predator, whatever it takes. I will keep our family and pets safe, and I'll live with that.
rebel mamma February 25, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Hey Dutch one, how about posting your real name and address here so we can report you. It is illegal to do what you are suggesting. You shouldn't have moved here if you don't like the local wildlife.

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