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Monday, March 2, 2009

Coyotes in Bixby Knolls...What To Do?

There are morning people and there is the rest of the world. Morning people often like to start their day off by themselves, enjoying their solitude as their part of the world wakes up around them. Some morning people welcome the new day dawning with a walk or jog through their neighborhood. Listening to their steps and the rhythm of their pace blending in with the twittering birds coming alive in the trees over head, a semi-meditative state allows the morning person to plan his day, write his correspondence, contemplate his purpose in life and pray for guidance in the decisions that lay ahead.

If you neighborhood is like the neighborhoods I have lived in over the years most of your early morning inhabitants are solitary creatures; solo walkers and joggers easily outnumber those in pairs by a factor of five or six to one—not counting those with canine companions. And so it has been with me for many years as I naturally awaken before dawn, put on the coffee, take about ten to fifteen minutes for an inspirational read, and grab a cup of coffee and the leash—time for the dog to take me for a thirty to forty minute walk.

Imagine you are a morning person, if you already are one Good Morning!, and you are on your daily routine quietly keeping pace on your standard route when you come across a predatory wild animal. Now imagine instead of coming upon not one coyote but two. Yikes! If you have a pet on a leash you quickly run through the options, keep him on the leash so you can drag him out of a fight, but that may lead the coyotes to you, let him off the leash so he can run, but that may doom him to the pair ganging up on him, take him off the leash and use the clip as a weapon you can swing and hit with if need be, pour hot coffee on their heads. You come to your senses, stop walking and very slowly and carefully back away until you are a safe enough distance away to quickly make it home.

You passed the first test of what to do when you spot a coyote in your environment: do not engage and quickly exit the immediate area. But now what? Now that you are home what are you to do? I put this question and more to John Keisler who is the Bureau Manager for the City of Long Beach Animal Care Services after spotting two coyotes who appeared to be stalking/hunting what I presumed to be a cat near the corner of California and Claiborne on Wednesday morning just before dawn (about 5:50 a.m.) as I was walking Harrison. Fortunately we were still a block and a half away when the yelping and barking alerted me to their presence and we were able to turn back without being noticed by the coyotes.

Keisler told me that our neighborhood, bordered by Atlantic on the West, San Antonio on the North, Orange on the East and Carson on the South, has been very active with coyote sightings and reports—he knows because they track them from calls (562-570-PETS <7387>) and entries on their website where they have a coyote incident form residents can complete (here).

What should I do if I spot a coyote or two in my neighborhood? Who should I call? If you spot the animal(s) outside of Animal Control’s regular hours and call their number (562-570-PETS or 7387) it is forwarded to the Long Beach Fire Department. If it is a life or injury threatening emergency they will send assistance.
What if it is not life threatening, I want to report the animals and have them removed from our neighborhood?
Animal Control’s ability to trap and/or kill coyotes is restricted by state law and is under the guidance and governance of the Department of Fish and Game. If coyotes are spotted under “normal” circumstances, which means pre-dawn or post-dusk when they are most active and hunting for food, animal control will not and cannot pick up the animals unless there is the threat of personal injury or risk. If coyotes are spotted roaming during daylight hours, which is considered unusual, then Animal Control can trap them—however state law mandates that the animals are released in proximity to where they were trapped.
In other words, there is not much residents can expect from Animal Control in terms of removal of coyotes from their neighborhood.
Correct, because of the state law limits the terms under which coyotes can be trapped or killed, unless a very unusual circumstance is occurring residents must find a way to share their neighborhood with the wild animals that sometime inhabit the area.
What are my risks as a resident, a parent and as a pet owner?
(I told Keisler we have a collie) Since your dog is pretty good size most coyotes will avoid him and not want to engage—they are after smaller and easier prey like rats, mice, birds and cats if they are hunting. Also humans are fairly safe as long as they do not attempt to interact with the coyotes. Coyote attacks on humans are very rare (website here indicates that this is not so much the case any more with three attacks on children in California in 2008. While most of the attacks have occurred in newer developments on the “edge” of natural habitats, as coyotes in urban areas like Long Beach become more accustomed to humans the chances of attacks increase).
Why are the coyotes in my neighborhood?
They are looking for food and the easier the better. Feral cats are a prime target, as are small dogs and other pets left out of the home at night. A primary source of food for all roaming animals is trash cans—if the coyotes do not raid the open containers then feral cats may be attracted to them, which in turn draw the coyotes; it is like a buffet for them.
How long will they be around?
Depending on the food supply most coyotes move on after a couple of weeks, however the ones in your neighborhood have been there for a while longer. Your neighbors have been very good about documenting the sightings.

Keisler was very informative and I am grateful for his time. What I took away from the conversation was a few items. First, to those who insist on maintaining outdoor cats and feeding feral cats—you are just setting them up to be coyote bait and by keeping them you are luring them into a neighborhood with children and responsible pet owners. Bring the cats inside or be prepared to lose them to our wild animal residents--deservedly I will add.

Second, neighbors who leave their trash containers open, like these two on the alley between California and Myrtle just north of Tehachapi (one block south of where I spotted the coyotes last week) who always leave their containers open so they can just drop their trash bags over the fence, are inviting the coyotes into the neighborhood. The irony on these two families is they both have dogs and are inviting predators to come and possibly attack them with their irresponsible behavior in regards to their refuse containers.

Third, the protection of the coyote as a wild animal in a long established residential area takes precedence over the protection of the residents from attack from the coyotes per state law; I am sure there are some who agree with this policy and some who disagree with it--either way it is the policy and Long Beach Animal Control must abide by it.
It is resident beware. Make sure if there is coyote activity in your neighborhood you alert your neighbors, take care during non-daylight hours as to your pets and children, and encourage your neighbors to not leave out over night pets or pet food and to make sure refuse containers are properly secured. One advantage of our coyote prowlers is there will certainly be a decrease in feral cats using our gardens as litter boxes and spreading fleas and other diseases to our pets--for every cloud there is a silver lining.


Colie said...

While I appreciate your blog and it's informative nature, I do not understand your cat hate. You are quick to say that we should protect our children, pets, and such, yet you seem quite happy to have the feral cats thinned out. Let me just explain something to you, those cats are in that predicament because of people. It's not their choice to be wild. They want to be loved too. Lazy, uncaring people abandoned said cats at some point, so it's really all our fault (well, not mine) that there is an abundance of feral cats and kittens. I always find it funny when someone seems to be animal friendly and probably have a collie that they love so much, but then hate another of Gods creatures in the next breath. I just think it's gross.

Dennis C Smith said...

Maybe if cat lovers would take the feral cats into their homes, since they just want to be loved, we would not have the problem; instead it is more de rigeur to attack those of us honestly professing our detestation for their presence and the health risks they pose. I have no hatred to the cats, just their presence and growing population because none of the people who love them so much to castigate me do not love them enough to get them off the streets and into their homes.

While you find my position on them "gross" I find "gross" the idea of an "outside cat" as a pet. It is not a pet it is an animal abandoned to the wild, so to speak, sure it may show up once in a while for the food left out but its not a pet it is a neighborhood nuisance not different than a rodent. A feral cat is one of God's creatures that is now part of God's food chain atop of which, in our neighborhood, sits the coyote, another of God's creatures. So if the lovable cat that is not lovable enough to be a pet in someone's home is taken by a coyote then God's plan is at work and the world of cause and effect is in balance. While you think it funny I can love my pet, which I care for with not only food but also shelter and attention, yet be callous to the demise of our local feral cat population by another feral animal; I find the sentiment in favor of feral cats and allowing them to remain in their condition equally callous yet not funny. So many people profess that it is not the cat's fault yet do nothing to reduce their population and then get upset when me, and many others who share my sentiments, are in favor of doing what is humane and euthanizing them. Lethal injection is much more humane than them scrounging for food and being torn apart by a hungry coyote or two.

Since humans won't euthanize them the coyotes will and call them supper. And since this tasty meal is readily available a more lethal danger has taken up residence in a neighborhood with REAL pets and pet owners and children who can be badly hurt, maimed or killed. You see they are God's creatures as well but since they are not wild and fed a can of tuna on someone's porch do not seem to garner sympathy. In this matter I am very comfortable with your labelling me "gross."

Thank you for reading and sharing your opinion on the subject, though it is very apparent we will not agree on this one. If you are one of my neighbors be careful, I have had a lot of emails indicating the pair have definitely set up shop so carry a stick and be aware while you are out and about.

Colie said...

De rigueur, is the spelling actually, not to be nit-picky and for those of us reading that might not know, here's the definition "necessary according to etiquette, protocol or fashion." There, now that's out of the way...
Here's where we agree: I think it is horrific to have an outside cat. The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is 5 years. The average lifespan of an indoor cat is 15 years. At least we can agree on something, right?

While I have a hard time understanding your "professed detestation" of these cats, even though you claim to have no hatred for them (?) I accept that's the way you feel. I will not however accept them as "rodents". I don't believe I could pick up a rat off the street and give it a cuddle, some food, and a bed and expect it to become a pet BUT I do know that a feral cat can become one.

If you are speaking to me personally, I do love them enough to try and get them off the streets and find them homes...but as someone who thinks they are detestable and carry diseases why don't you try and take care of it as well. You are the one complaining, so why not try and trap them humanely and take them to a shelter (not just euthanize them because it's easier). BTW, Have you ever caught a disease from a feral cat? Have there not been feral cats around for eons? Where is the CDC when you need them? Are there not fleas around everywhere regardless? We treat our dog and cat with advantage fastidiously. That usually solves that problem.

I don't like that there are so many feral cats, but not for the same reasons as you. I feel sorry for them. It is a sad state of affairs if you ask me. That is why there are so many caring people trapping and spaying and neutering them to try and fix the problem, instead of just ignoring it, or killing them all.

As for the "real pet" remark...why can't they just be a "real animal" that deserves your respect and possibly some compassion?