On Wednesday, March 2, the Larchmont Buzz and the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council co-sponsored a Town Hall meeting to discuss the hot topic of urban wildlife (especially coyote) management, and opportunities to train community volunteers for a new Wildlife Watch program.
With sightings of coyotes (not to mention raccoons, opossums, and other urban wildlife) becoming increasingly common in our neighborhoods, and spring breeding season upon us, Los Angeles Department of Animal Services Officer Hoang Dinh and California State Department of Fish and Wildlife Lt. Kent Smirl, who led the meeting, said it’s a great time to learn more about coyotes and other local wildlife, and they provided an extensive array of facts, advice and resources on the subject.
To help communicate as much of their valuable information as possible, The Buzz is presenting a summary of the discussion in four parts. Today’s story provides tips for managing coyote encounters with effective hazing techniques.
The best way to handle coyote encounters is to prevent them in the first place (as explained in greater detail in Part 2 of this series). But if you do find yourself face to face with a coyote, don’t panic.
According to Officer Dinh and Lt. Smirl, coyotes don’t actually see you as food…but they may see you as a source of food (especially if you’re carrying food or dog treats). At the same time, however, they prefer to go for easy prey and do not like fights, which means they’re very likely to back off if you make yourself large and intimidating when you see one.
The technique of making yourself big and scary to a coyote is called “hazing.” It works because, according to Officer Dinh, coyotes calculate risks vs. rewards very carefully, and hazing increases the risk factor from their point of view.
So do take the time to haze the coyote and let the animal know it’s not wanted or welcome. (One neighbor at last week’s meeting said she has chased coyotes twice…and both times, the animal ran a short way off, then stopped and looked back to see if she was still coming, and when it saw she was, ran off for good.)
– First, maintain eye contact, which is an intimidating gesture.
– Hold and wave a stick (or other threatening-looking item) high up over your head, to make you look bigger and even more opposing.
– Throw your stick or other item in the animal’s general direction.
– Noisy items, like loud shakers (e.g. a soda can filled with pea gravel or pennies) and whistles can also help scare off coyotes, but they should be combined with making yourself look big and intimidating at the same time.
– Don’t scream in a high-pitched voice – it makes you look vulnerable. Instead, growl or roar at the coyote (Lt. Smirl demonstrated with a loud “Get outta here!”), while making yourself look big and scary.
– Do something unexpected. Coyotes learn quickly, so if every time they see a human, the human just reaches for its phone, or puts its hands up in the same way, the coyote won’t read it as a threat. The gesture should be big and different from what the animal has seen humans do before.
– Don’t get too bold in chasing the coyote, and don’t corner it where it has no choice but to fight.
– Slowly back away.
If you actively haze coyotes, said both wildlife officers, it teaches them to be afraid of you (and other people)…which not only doesn’t hurt the coyote, but is actually doing it a favor. “You’re saving the animal’s life by doing that,” said Officer Dinh. Hazing, he said, sends the message that the animal is not welcome and faces threats in the current environment…which makes it less comfortable, less likely to settle in, and more likely to move on from its current surroundings, which is exactly what we want.