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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.

khadija July 07, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Thanks so much for this article.
James Knight July 07, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Finally, a "rational and moral" approach. Just get used to it folks.
Dottie Burns July 07, 2011 at 08:04 PM
I've lived in Altadena all my life and since we are the ones who moved into their territory I have learned to keep my pets inside. I have been know to physically chase them off of our street but I could never shoot them.
Why Dothat July 07, 2011 at 08:06 PM
It is surprising that Mr. Brennan did not inform your readers that there are many things they can do to coexist with coyotes. Projectcoyote.org is a great source of scientific info. Here are tips for residents: --If a coyote comes too close to your neighborhood, haze it...make if feel unwelcome: shout, clap your hands, spray a garden hose, sound a whistle or throw pebbles at it. --Don't let your cats and small dogs wander, especially at night, dawn and dusk. --Walk dogs on leashes. If you have a small dog, and a coyote approaches, pick up your dog and shout at the coyote. --Never feed coyotes and don't leave pet food outside. --Clean up under birdfeeders and around barbeque grills. --Cover trash tightly and make sure area businesses are doing the same.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) July 07, 2011 at 08:40 PM
Actually "Why Dothat," he did. Here is the information: 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).
Martina July 08, 2011 at 11:46 AM
I'm curious about a tip from another reader who suggested using wolf urine as a deterant. While we don't have wolves here locally (the urine will attract them) wanted to know if anyone has more information/experience with this method? I'm for coexisting wih the coyotes and keep my animals inside during early morning and at night.
Mark Calney July 08, 2011 at 02:22 PM
It is time to handle the coyote problem in our neighborhood and surrounding communities. The only rational and moral solution to deal with these beasts is to track them down and kill them. A few years ago, we had a pet cat killed by a coyote and I was able to follow it until it slipped through a hole in the north-east fence of the Mountain View Cemetery (the corner of N. Marengo and E. Calavares). More recently, we had a coyote jump the six foot fence of our back yard. Do we really have to wait until some poor child is attacked before we act to effectively end this immediate threat? Let’s be clear about this. Coyotes are not human beings. Nor are they (or any other beast) equal to the unique creative potential of the human mind – that capacity which distinguishes us from the animals. We are not here to “share the land” with predators, as if coyotes possess some kind of legal or natural right to do so. Before human beings settled these lands in a major way, after the Civil War, there was far less vegetation and animal life than exists here today, including the coyote population. We must end this threat now!
Steve Unger July 08, 2011 at 02:31 PM
We have infringed on their territory. We must take action to deter them, not kill them
James Knight July 08, 2011 at 05:54 PM
I got censored last time I responded to this identical comment, cut and pasted from a different thread, so let me just say that your "solution" is neither moral nor rational. It is pure brutal nonsense.
Dan Abendschein (Editor) July 08, 2011 at 06:45 PM
@James - To clarify, your comment on the last thread did not show up because of technical difficulties the site experienced from last Friday until Wednesday. What happened during those times was that if you hit "reply" to a comment, the comment would show up on the front page of the site, but not on the story site. Other comments there were left under "Leave a comment" were not affected. We don't censor comments- the only ones I have ever removed were when somebody used abusive language. Your comment can still be viewed under your profile at http://altadena.patch.com/users/james-knight, and if you like you can copy it and paste it back into that story thread any time you like.
Geoff A. July 08, 2011 at 11:48 PM
"....the unique creative potential of the human mind – that capacity which distinguishes us from the animals..." Are you referring to the specifically human ability of being so consumed by a fear, even when evidence does not support it, that we set about to completely annihilate that of which we are afraid?
Sunny Murchison August 05, 2011 at 05:00 PM
Mark Cainey, I agree with you 100%. Coyotes are out of control. My Lil Sunny Lee did not deserve to die the brutal death she died, June 30, 2011. Google Sunny Murchison coyote Altadena for the full news coverage. It will come to a child being killed by coyotes. Have you seen Google photos of children attacked by coyotes nationwide? Taylor Mitchell lost her life to coyotes in 2009. I will, with God's help, spearhead a grassroots movement to warn the public against the serious issue: coyotes out of control in SoCal. I suggest someone in Altadena have the courage to spearhead a movement up there.I moved out of Altadena, I love the people and their pets there, but could not stand to see the very spot the coyotes brutally killed by dog on June 30, 2011. I am not surprised that where I moved has coyotes as well maruading the neighborhood. These beasts are all over. Urban coyotes.
Lisa September 27, 2011 at 11:03 PM
I have the right to protect me and mine from a wild animal and if that means killing a coyote then that should be my right.
Lisa September 27, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Eat or be eaten. Kill or be killed.
Lisa September 27, 2011 at 11:06 PM
Coyotes are wild carnivores. They are not cute dogs.
Lisa September 27, 2011 at 11:07 PM
Kill them.
James Knight September 27, 2011 at 11:09 PM
My cat was killed by a car a few weeks ago. I'm going to hire an automobile trapper to cut down on the number of vehicles on my street. That or start shooting tires out.
Lisa September 27, 2011 at 11:23 PM
Maybe you could never shoot. I don't have that problem.
WonderBarbie May 05, 2012 at 07:43 AM
Let's see... you say "get used to living with the Coyotes". So. You can't walk your dog, you have to carry it, you have to constantly pickup fallen fruit, clean under bird feeders, etc. In other words, coexist with them but make sure you are not feeding them. I just think that it is a problem when you have a carnivore living among children, small animals, etc. You really cannot enjoy the outdoors and it seems like you have a lot more precautions to take. In addition, I believe I read somewhere that when these animals get used to living among humans, they become more agressive. Especially since you cannot even secure your property (they can jump fences and climb on roofs). So, who is the dominate here? I don't believe in being cruel to animals unnessarily, but when people put enormous amounts of time and money to save animals but not other starving homeless humans seems a little backwards to me.
WonderBarbie May 05, 2012 at 07:45 AM
And? It's not the first time you infringed on somebodies territory. Think about it!
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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