ANIMAL WATCH-The exploding coyote presence in Los Angeles -- and obvious lack of concern by LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette and other City officials -- has apparently caused some individuals to take things into their own hands.
Two recent criminal acts may indicate that public patience is wearing thin and desperation is setting in. Is it possible that mounting anger over inaction regarding marauding coyotes is also symbolic of a seething rebellion against the greater issue of Los Angeles’ pompous, detached and inept local government, which acts without facts and worries more about the political and financial favor of advocacy groups than the safety of the electorate (and their pets)?
The coyotes’ increasing boldness toward humans and the killing of furry or feathered family members has been treated by City Hall as just another irrelevant and ignorable quality-of-life issue until a recent motion by San Pedro Councilman Joe Buscaino instructed the Department of Animal Services to report with a plan to reduce the number of coyotes in Harbor communities -- a priority for constituents in his densely populated district. It’s also critical to uscaino’s upcoming re-election campaign -- and a wake-up call to other LA politicians.
On July 1, the LA Times reported, “Mystery Shooter Kills Coyote in Silver Lake,” explaining that a Silver Lake resident found the dead coyote lying in front of his parked car in June and a gunshot was later determined as the cause of death. LAPD, the Animal Cruelty Task Force, plus the Department of Animal Services are all looking into the shooting.
The Times states, “…some neighbors believed the killing was just the latest example of resident’s frustration with coyotes in Silver Lake,” which they describe as increasingly bold.
“We’ve had them on our front lawn, 10 feet from the front of the house,” said one Silver Lake resident, lamenting that many cats have been taken and she worries about her toddler and five-week-old infant.
Her husband added, “I love coyotes, but I love my dog more.” This expressed the attitude of most Angelenos, who enjoy living peacefully with wildlife, as long as it is reciprocal.
In what appears to be an unrelated incident on May 24, LA Animal Services’ GM Brenda Barnette issued a media alert entitled, “WANTED injured coyote & illegal trapper,” announcing information about a coyote “whose leg was stuck in an illegal leg hold trap” in the Valley. Animal Control Officers (ACOs) responded immediately, the release stated but, “…unfortunately the coyote had disappeared.”
On May 27, there was a second call that the trap was found, “along with one of the legs of the coyote still locked in the trap.” Barnette advised that, “ACOs are continuing patrols for both the distressed coyote and the illegal trapper.” Although the injured coyote was purported to have subsequently been seen in the North Hills area, no word of its capture followed.
Los Angeles abhors the suffering of any domestic or wild animal. However, caustic comments on news coverage of the trapping compared LA Animal Services’ slow -- or nonexistent -- response to dog attacks or to coyotes killing pets and threatening humans, to the concern (and sudden availability of staff) for the trapped coyote.
An obsequious report by Animal Services on Wednesday, June 29, assured coyote advocates and Paul Koretz’ Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee that LAAS, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the National Park Service all agree that the coyote population has not grown, but the same coyotes are being reported by multiple people on social media.
Interestingly, the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife has posted prominently on its website, Coyote Attacks: an Increasing Suburban Problem (White Paper from the Hopland Research and Extension Center, University of California.)
And, LA County Department of Public Health reports that coyote attacks on humans increased from two in 2011 to 15 in 2015, according to the Daily Breeze. Locally, a child and an adult male were bitten in Elysian Park last year in separate incidents.
Reports from all over Los Angeles indicate alarm not just for the numbers of sightings but also because of the comfort-level evident when predators closely related to wolves are lounging on front lawns.
A San Pedro resident told the Daily Breeze that, when he left for work before dawn in June, there were five coyotes spread across his yard. He added, “I’ve never seen anything like that in the past.”
In January 2016, the National Park Service announced that a young female coyote, discovered with at least five pups living in the Echo Park area on September 23, 2015, was found drowned in MacArthur Park lake.
“In the short time C-146 was tracked via a GPS collar, her travels displayed unusual behavior for a species that is territorial, the NPS report stated. “Since captured near the LA River in Northeast LA, she traveled as far south as downtown Los Angeles via the LA River, throughout Elysian Park, and into the Westlake neighborhood where she met her fate in MacArthur Park.”
“They’re not coming from anywhere, they’re just here,” Niamh Quinn, advisor at the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, told the Daily Breeze, “They’re now established in urban communities and they’re reproducing successfully.”
Dr. Quinn also clarified that declining food and water in the hills is NOT the reason for the coyotes’ increasingly aggressive behavior. It is the ease of raiding garbage cans in yards rather than exerting the energy to hunt and catch dinner.
A Westlake/Echo Park unofficial coyote-watch networker advised this week that a coyote with a cat in its mouth was reported on Park View St. near Temple. A man walking a Chihuahua on Glendale Blvd. near the 101 Fwy. bridge reported that, “a coyote came out from under a car, grabbed the pup and ran up the hill with it.” And, another animal rescuer said she saw two coyotes near Hoover and Sanborn, each with a cat.
In response to Buscaino’s motion, LA Animal Services posted a Report Back on the Coyote Management Program on June 24, recommending that Council “Receive and File.” Barnette states that the Department does not plan to trap or otherwise remove any wildlife and that “coyotes cause few problems that can’t be resolved with better coexistence training and compliance on the part of the city’s residents.”
So far, her plan has not produced a noticeably positive result.
Buscaino advised in a prepared statement, “I will continue to gauge the situation and the public comment and respond appropriately.” At the end of the one-hour discussion, Koretz stated, “I’m not sure we’ve completely exhausted this subject. We’ll have a further hearing to see if anything can be added to the program.” Is either sincere?
It is insulting to residents who have lived peacefully with wildlife for decades for City Hall officials to accept Brenda Barnette’s pathetic, condescending explanation that there is no increasing coyote problem -- just a social-media illusion.
There is no problem with coyotes being predators and acting on their natural survival instinct to kill and eat the most available prey. However, that cannot continue to be pets -- beloved family members. And Angelenos cannot live under the threat that children (or even adults) may be next.
Where is the compassion for the innocent cats and dogs who experience unfathomable terror when snatched from their owner or yard in a coyote’s jaws and suffer horrific deaths being crushed or torn apart alive by its teeth? Has even one humane organization publicly mourned them or decried their deaths?
While there is still time, and before the coyote population becomes overwhelming, City Hall must consult with experienced experts on the most humane way to drive coyotes away from heavily populate areas and back to a natural habitat, and then implement a plan.
If not, escalating fear and desperation may cause more law-abiding residents to take the law into their own hands to protect those they love -- and voters will not forget.
(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com. She lives in Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
Above graph appeared in LACurbed.com.