DEEGAN ON LA-The shot rang out in the silent summer night, in Silver Lake. One coyote down. Summer is here, the heat is rising, and the hills are full of coyotes that are migrating down from their usual habitats in the now-parched hillsides to urban centers in search of food and water. What to do? Definitely don’t shoot them, as an apparent coyote vigilante did in Silver Lake a few weeks ago.
"This kind of sniper attack against a coyote is the first I’ve heard of in Southern California. There has been an outpouring of support to find and catch whoever committed this reprehensible act of animal cruelty. Project Coyote is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the sniper who fatally shot this coyote in Silver Lake,” declared Randi Feilich, the Southern California Representative for Project Coyote an organization that promotes coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science and advocacy.
The LAPD is treating the coyote shooting in Silver Lake as an open criminal case, and asking anyone with information to call the Animal Cruelty Task Force at 213-486-0450.
Protecting wildlife corridors in the hills, so coyotes and other wildlife can trek to common grounds, is no longer the answer when the native wildlife, that were here long before any of us, descend into Silver Lake, or Hancock Park, or the Valley communities at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Coexistence with them and education about them are the winning strategies for dealing with our wildlife neighbors that are showing up in urban neighborhoods with real regularity.
Hillside dwellers may be more familiar with coyotes than city dwellers, although, as the hills continue to densify and attract first-time residents, many more are seeking the “living-in-nature” experience in the midst of urban sprawl -- one of the coveted lifestyles in LA. So, some knowledge about the wildlife population and strategies for coexisting with coyotes in the hills or on city streets is necessary.
“Many people moving to hillsides are simply unaware there is wildlife living near them in close proximity. Education is the key for safe coexistence", said Feilich. The same advice – education -- applies to city dwellers.
Project Coyote offers strategies for both hillside and city residents to coexist with coyotes.
If you live in the city, these are some solutions that will help you manage:
- Start with keeping your animals on a leash when you are taking them for a walk.
- Some waste management containers don’t have self-closing lids--always have garbage contained and covered.
- Fruit on ground attracts rodents and then coyotes. Pick it up when it falls off the tree.
- Don’t feed a coyote by leaving cat food or dog food outside.
- Leaving your pet door open at night is a problem. Close it at night.
- Dusk to dawn is the critical time to be sure you don’t have free-roaming pets when you take them for a walk.
- Spay or neuter your dog. Coyotes can, and will, mate.
- Secure your under-house crawlspaces to deny coyotes a place to hang out and make themselves at home.
Here are some of the tested and effective strategies if you live in the hills:
- You can build fences around your property. Make them 6 to 7 feet tall because coyotes can leap, and are also good climbers, and sink the fence to a depth of at least a half-foot to prevent them from burrowing under the fence.
- If you have coyotes coming into your yard, you can get solar operated flashing lights, or motion sensors, or motion-activated sprinklers. Any of these methods will scare a coyote away.
- To prevent a coyote from climbing up your fence, you can install a “coyote roller” which has a unique design that prevents coyotes from getting the traction with their front paws needed to climb a fence line. A coyote roller (coyoteroller.com) is a 4-foot, aluminum extruded ribbed roller designed to prevent animals from getting the foothold they need to climb over a fence. It’s simple, safe, and humane; it requires no power source while being maintenance free and durable.
Project Coyote’s Feilich makes a point many hillside dwellers may not have considered when she advises, “Clear away dense brush and weeds that can become den sites for coyotes who are looking for a safe place to raise their young. April through August is pupping season for coyotes. Don’t create a habitat for them if you don’t want them in your neighborhood. But also recognize that they are one of nature’s most effective rodent controllers so they’re important to healthy ecosystems.”
Project Coyote offers this short video of “Best Practices For Coexisiting With Coyotes”
Others, like California wildlife biologist Kevin Brennan, an expert on coyotes in Southern California who works for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, have also shared their strategies. Brennan recently told a Southern California Public Radio audience that “understanding some of the attributes of coyotes helps -- they’re likely to eat pets, root through your garbage and frighten homeowners.”
He advises a strategy of deterrence for urban dwellers who are not used to dealing with the growing presence of coyotes that are now often sighted when walking dogs in city neighborhoods. Like others, he suggests keeping pets on a leash when outdoors, cleaning up loose garbage and picking up fruit that falls from trees, thus denying coyotes a free lunch. You can also make coyotes feel uncomfortable by opening and closing an umbrella aimed at them or throwing a tennis ball toward but not at them; this will not hurt them but may scare them away.
Closer to home, Los Angeles Animal Services offers a very informative brochure full of tips and FAQs that can help you, such as:
What should I do if a coyote approaches me?
- Wave your arms.
- Shout in a low, loud tone.
- Throw objects at the coyote while maintaining eye contact.
- Make yourself look as big as possible.
- If you are wearing a jacket, take it off and swing around over your head.
- If possible go towards active or populated areas but do not turn your back and run from the coyote as that could trigger a chase.
How can I keep my dog safe?
- Closely supervise your dog.
- Do not leave small dogs unattended in your yard.
- Walk your dog on a leash at all times & stay close to high pedestrian traffic areas.
- Try not to establish a regular routine & route to avoid setting up a pattern for the coyote to detect.
- Avoid dense brushy areas or paths near abandoned properties.
- If you notice a coyote when walking your dog, keep your dog as close to you as possible and move towards an active area.
- Never encourage or allow your dog to interact or “play” with coyotes.
No matter if you live in the hills or the flats, the coyotes are singing the same tune as humans as they roam our streets and hillsides: Home Sweet Home.
(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.