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.