Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Town Hall Meeting Provides Information and Tips on Urban Wildlife (Part 4 – Wildlife Watch and Other Community Support)



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 has presented summary of the discussion in four parts.  In this final installment, we talk about how to start a Wildlife Watch program in your neighborhood, and other ways in which our local wildlife agencies support the community.


Lt. Kent Smirl, from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said at last week’s Town Hall meeting that since he joined the department in 1978, he has seen the urban wildlife population grow significantly, especially in areas of new homes, and in areas where human population density has increased.  The new population introduces new scents, and lots of pets…and those new smells and food sources attract coyotes, who then get habituated to the attractive new surroundings.  This is why hazing and other techniques to discourage coyotes from settling in are so important – they reinforce the message that coyotes aren’t wanted here and should move on.


Community Coaching Programs


When coyotes do show up in urban neighborhoods, Smirl said, his Department does have volunteer teams that can come out to investigate…and a warden will come if there’s been a human attack. But he said that for the last 10 years or so, cities have been reaching out for even more help.

So Fish and Game has responded with a Community Coaching program, a two-pronged effort to help cities manage urban wildlife.

The first part of Community Coaching is Agency Coaching, in which CFW experts work with mayors, city councils, parks departments and even CalTrans to help them establish wildlife policies and programs.

The second part of CFW’s Community Coaching effort is Wildlife Watch, a new program to train teams of local neighbors (similar to Crime Watch teams) to help manage wildlife issues in their own communities. The training – which covers all sorts of wildlife, not just coyotes – includes sessions on wildlife lifecycles and behavior, prevention techniques, how to eliminate food sources, hazing, how to distinguish among and evaluate different kinds of wildlife encounters, and how to report troublesome activity.


Wildlife Threat Level Scale


One tool provided by Wildlife Watch is a green-yellow-red threat-level scale, which can be particularly useful in evaluating wildlife encounters.  It defines a “Green” level event as a sighting in which the animal runs away from human contact.  “Yellow” is an encounter that includes an imminent threat, such as an animal acting abnormally, or which approaches you or your dogs.  And “Red” is an actual attack on a human, which triggers an effort to remove the offending animal.  (Los Angeles Department of Animal Services Officer Hoang Dinh noted that this process, involving a 24-hour monitored snare trap, can be tricky because it can be hard to find the right animal, and the traps sometimes catch the wrong ones. Also, it’s worth noting that Los Angeles, due to local laws and unlike some other nearby cities, does not include an “Orange” level (attack on a pet) on the threat scale between Yellow and Red.)

Lt. Smirl said that “education is power” for neighborhood Wildlife Watch teams, and that residents gain confidence through the training and subsequent community action. And this can significantly lower the likelihood of “Red” incidents in neighborhoods with Wildlife Watch teams.


How to Start a Wildlife Watch Team in Your Neighborhood


Neighborhoods that are interested in starting Wildlife Watch teams should contact Officer Dinh, who can coordinate with training teams from CA Fish and Wildlife to schedule the necessary meetings and workshops.

If you’re not quite ready to schedule Wildlife Watch training in your neighborhood, but would like more information, please also contact Officer Dinh at the link above.  You can also report wildlife activity (or the improper feeding of animals) in your neighborhood…and send photos and videos of animal activity to help Animal Services stay informed about our local wildlife.


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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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