On Wednesday, March 2, the Larchmont Buzz and the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council co-sponsored a Town Hall meeting to discuss the hot local 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 will present a summary of the discussion in four parts. Today’s story passes along some necessary background about coyotes from Dinh and Smirl – including myths and more accurate information that is necessary to understand coyotes and their control…and the current status of coyote activity in our area.
– Coyotes are relatively small animals with an average weight around 35 pounds (not 100, as many people think).
– Coyotes do not grow larger if you feed them.
– Coyotes don’t just live in the hills. With lots of food and hiding places, residential areas are naturally very attractive to them.
– Dangerous incidents related to coyotes are NOT unavoidable, as many people fear.
As noted above, according to Dinh and Smirl, coyotes are not new in our urban residential areas – they’ve always been here, but traditionally stay out of sight. What has changed, they said, is that our human population has grown and provides coyotes and other wildlife with increasing scents and sources of food (trash, litter, pets, etc.), as well as numerous places to shelter. So the animals have become more habituated and comfortable in more heavily populated areas.
Other facts provide by the wildlife officers:
– All animals, including coyotes, need food, water, shelter and space to survive. Coyotes are attracted to areas where trash is left out or food scraps are prevalent, and where there is dense brush, unkempt or vacant properties, or other places where they can hide.
– Coyotes are always here, but if nature is in balance, they’ll usually stay out of sight. If you’re seeing too many coyotes, it means there’s too much food for them and their population is growing too quickly. (According to Dinh and Smirl, if you put too much energy – i.e. food – into the ecosystem, nature deals with it by providing more animals to eat it. The more food, the more animals come and the more they will stay and breed to provide even more animals.)
– It’s difficult to accurately count the coyote population (they’re good at hiding), and it would take the skills of a trained biologist, which the city does not have on staff. (But it would make a good thesis project, said Dinh, for an ambitious graduate student.)
– Coyotes can survive very nicely without human help of any sort. As Officer Dinh said “they were fine before we were here, and they’ll be fine now,” if we leave them alone.
– If a coyote finds food and shelter in your area, it will stay, settle in and breed. If it doesn’t…it won’t.
– Most coyotes in residential areas are not “alpha” animals; they are often those who were rejected by other coyote groups.
– Coyotes are transient animals, and can travel up to 25 miles in just one night.
– Coyotes are very agile and can jump even six or eight-foot fences. They also like to walk along the tops of fences (“shopping,” as officer Dinh says, for prey or small pets in the yard below). They can also squeeze between fence slats or posts, and love to dig under fences.
– Construction sites – very prevalent these days – are very attractive to coyotes, especially if workers leave food and trash out, because the site provides both food and shelter in one easy spot. “It’s like breakfast in bed,” according to Officer Dinh.
– Yards with California native landscaping can also be attractive, as they mimic coyotes’ non-urban native habitats.
– Coyotes usually prefer smaller prey, but they may go after bigger animals (including bigger dogs) during breeding season.
– Coyotes also prefer easier prey, and don’t like fights. They are likely to back down and leave if confronted with a formidable opponent.
– If you’d like to learn more about coyotes and their habitats and life cycles, there is a lot of good information available online.
Current/Seasonal Updates on Local Coyotes
– While there have been numerous coyote sightings over the last year or so in Hancock Park, Windsor Village and adjacent neighborhoods, the city these days is receiving more reports of coyote sightings south of Olympic Blvd, with a number of them along Pico Blvd. and the 10 Freeway.
– This is breeding season, so we will soon be seeing new pups and coyote families out and about…which means this is the perfect time to learn more about coyotes and how to discourage them, start eliminating neighborhood food sources, learn how to respond if and when you see them, and learn how and when to report activity and incidents to the city.