Coyote Danger! Will LA Adopt Trap and Kill Plan?

ANIMAL WATCH

ANIMAL WATCH-On June 15, the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee (PAW) of the LA City Council agendized a hearing on the May 24 motion  by San Pedro/Harbor-area Councilman Joe Buscaino, instructing LA Animal Services to report back by July 1 with recommendations “…that will further control the coyote population in the City’s residential neighborhoods.” 

Torrance, a neighboring South Bay city which shares coyotes with San Pedro, scheduled a Council meeting on June 14 on the same subject. Prior community meetings indicated that Torrance residents wanted serious steps taken to deter the city’s coyote invasion. 

Coincidentally -- or possibly to let Torrance set the benchmark -- PAW Chair Paul Koretz, cancelled the June 15 LA hearing. 

Despite emotional pleas and protests from wildlife advocates that trapping and removing urban coyotes is inhumane and will not solve the problem, on June 14 the Torrance City Council adopted an urban coyote management plan emphasizing public education, but also including “lethal removal of problem animals when the safety of residents is at risk.” 

Residents cited that coexistence without protection has resulted in the City responding to nearly 150 coyote sightings already this year, including 84 in April. 

Torrance encompasses almost 21 square miles, with an estimated 2013 population of 147,478. Its consistently low crime rate ranks it among the safest cities in LA County. 

Coyotes have killed an estimated 60 mostly domestic animals so far this year, including 37 cats, seven dogs and one tortoise, according to the Daily Breeze. 

ABC 7 News reported that wildlife advocate Matthew Duncan advised food and water bowls left outside, free roaming cats, and small unattended dogs are what draw coyotes to neighborhoods and removing these issues “will likely solve the problem.” 

It is inconvenient for Councilman Koretz, who is seeking support for re-election and has staked much of his political career on being an ‘animal-lover,’ that the Torrance Council approved lethal action -- the possibility of which is also implied in Buscaino’s motion, seconded by Koretz. 

Attorney Mark R. Steinberg, resident of the Los Feliz Oaks area for over 40 years, lost two beloved border collies to coyotes inside his fenced yard last year. He has submitted to the Council File  an adaptable, comprehensive plan for coyote management developed for The Town of Parker in cooperation with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) and put a lot of thought and research into this issue. 

He also has made some very astute suggestions, including that a requirement for tracking and reporting coyote sightings/incidents and making updated information available to the public on the Animal Services website be incorporated into Councilman Buscaino’s motion. 

Mr. Steinberg recently told the Daily Breeze that the relationship of residents with coyotes has changed radically in the past few years. “People are being confronted (by emboldened coyotes) in the streets, there’s regular killing and maiming of pets, some of them the size of the coyotes themselves,” he said. 

A Simi Valley coyote rehabilitator also filed a letter recommending education for the public, “…alleviating any fears they had on wild animals being a danger.” 

LA Animal Services' GM Brenda Barnette admits to not keeping statistics on sightings or attacks on pets in the city and she has not issued a promised public response to distraught residents after holding community meetings last year. The Department also does not respond to coyote threats or attacks on pets or humans. (Human attacks are reported to the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife.) 

The LAAS website has an obscure Wildlife Section which states, “It is not the intention of the Department of Animal Services to remove wildlife from residential areas. Rather, the Department is hoping to rectify most problems through neighborhood education and individual homeowner attention.”

It also reassures us that, “Statistically the chances of wildlife attacks on humans causing fatality are low when compared to 43,000 people killed by auto accidents, 13,000 people killed by falls, and on the obscure side 13 people that are killed by vending machine’s [sic] falling on them every year.” 

As if Chief Charlie Beck is not busy enough preparing for potential terrorist attacks in LA, Lt. Kent Smirl of CA F&W told reporters last year that coyotes have recently entered homes chasing dogs or cats through pet doors. In an OC case, a coyote followed a woman through her front door, wrestled her dog away from her in the living room and disappeared into the neighborhood with the dog in its jaws. 

Any immediate crisis of this nature in LA would undoubtedly be called into 911, so I asked a Senior Lead Officer what training LAPD has received for such situations where humans are also endangered and what action would be taken. He responded that they had not received any training and would probably try to deter the animal with fire extinguishers.

Mange in coyotes may result in more contact with humans. 

Many reports of coyote sightings in LA include the comment that the animal is extremely thin and missing hair. 

A team of Canadian researchers found that coyotes that live in urban areas and have mange, are more likely to have an inadequate diet based on human food. They published their 2015 study, “Poor health in association with the use of anthropogenic resources in an urban carnivore,” in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

GPS collars were applied to 19 coyotes and their hair was sampled periodically. Eleven coyotes appeared to be healthy and eight were visibly infested with sarcoptic mange, a mite that causes hair loss. Diseased coyotes used more developed areas, had larger monthly home ranges, were more active during the day, and assimilated less protein than coyotes that appeared to be healthy. 

Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite that burrows under the skin and can migrate and infect other animals (or humans). Untreated, this condition results in extensive hair loss, decreased body-weight and constant itching and scratching that causes additional self-inflicted skin wounds that become infected. As the disease progresses the skin becomes thickened and takes on a wrinkled appearance and is usually hairless and discolored. (The Canadian researchers also noted that pet owners should be aware that dogs can get mange from coyotes.) 

A thesis by Evan C. Wilson, Graduate Program in Environment and Natural Resources, Ohio State, in 2012, The Dynamics of Sarcoptic Mange in an Urban Coyote (Canis latrans) Population,  proposes that, “Disease, specifically sarcoptic mange, is a potential reason for some individuals [coyotes], to ignore their wariness of humans, and behave in a manner that makes them become a ‘nuisance’ animal.”

Could this possibly explain reports that some coyotes seem less leery of noise and are seen wandering in congested areas of LA during daytime? 

The Canadian research team speculates that human food provides a low-quality, but easily accessible food source sought by diseased coyotes. In turn, that dependency on food from human resources promotes more encounters with people. 

Councilman Buscaino is right -- it is time for Los Angeles’ officials to get serious about this exploding public safety/health issue affecting animals and humans. Coyotes in cities have evolved beyond the traditional characteristics of timidity and fear of humans for numerous reasons, and Los Angeles is woefully unenlightened and unprepared.

                                                           

(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.

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