West Hollywood is known for being dog-friendly. But as much as we love our dogs, now local residents are struggling to find a way to deal with a different branch of the canine species that is roaming our streets (and backyards).
That branch is canis latrans, better known as coyotes.
For reasons that are unclear, the recent influx of coyotes is concentrated in the West Hollywood West neighborhood. A similar coyote invasion occurred on the city’s Eastside in the summer of 2017. Residents of West Hollywood West have reported seeing coyotes on streets such as Rosewood, Huntley, Dorrington, Almont and Ashcroft, to name a few.
“It’s scaring a lot of people out there,” said Manny Rodriguez, a resident of West Hollywood West. “They are concerned, scared. This is an urban environment. People actually walk the sidewalks and have secured backyards. To see these wild animals is very disconcerting.”
Residents are especially concerned that coyotes might attack small dogs and cats. While some people have expressed fear that they might be attached, such attacks are said to be rare, with only one human fatality reported in California’s history.
Rodriguez said the coyotes seem to cluster on lots that are unoccupied and not properly fenced. He cited 537 Huntley as one example. The empty lot seems to be a place where coyotes have created dens, Rodriguez said. “ … It’s a stalled construction of a two-story house and for some reason there’s no fence around it. It’s just a hedge that you can walk through.”
The Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control estimates there are between 250,000 to 750,000 coyotes living in California, and dealing with them isn’t easy. For example, state law bars residents from trapping coyotes and relocating them. And while some cities such as Torrance have hired licensed pest control experts to trap and euthanize coyotes, that’s an approach that’s likely to upset animal rights activists.
In an attempt to deal with the issue, the West Hollywood City Council in October 2017 approved a proposal by Councilmember Lindsey Horvath to ask city staffers to create to a coyote management plan that would include “management goals, information on coyote behavior, management strategies, recommended responses to coyote encounters and attacks, and other pertinent information.”
Attached to that proposal was a “coyote management and coexistence plan” developed by the Humane Society of the United States, which other cities have used to develop their plans for dealing with the animals.
A memo accompanying Horvath’s proposal noted that “coyotes fill a unique niche in the ecology of Southern California. Hikers, outdoors enthusiasts, and those who live near mountains and foothills have likely encountered the small, thin dog-like creatures at least once. However, unlike bobcats, pumas, and other carnivores, coyotes are extremely well-suited to living in urban environments. Coyotes can scavenge and survive on almost any food source, including garbage, fallen fruit, small mammals and reptiles, and, sadly, domestic pets.”
So the best bet is to remove what attracts coyotes. “They generally hunt small mammals such as mice, rats, voles, rabbits and prairie dogs, but will also eat fruit and berries and will even scavenge road-killed animals,” the Humane Society report states. “In urban areas, coyotes are also known to eat pet food, unsecured garbage and compost. They may also prey on unattended domestic pets such as cats and small dogs if given the opportunity by draining standing water and removing food and garbage waste as well as not leaving small pets in a backyard where they are vulnerable to attack.”
Trapping and killing coyotes isn’t effective, the report says. “Because coyotes are so intelligent arid wary of human scent, it is very difficult to catch any coyote in a trap, never mind the problem- causing coyote. Research has shown that when lethally controlled, coyotes exhibit a ‘rebound effect’ (a surge in their reproductive rates), allowing for quick regeneration of their population numbers. The disruption of their family group structure leads to an increase in the number of females breeding in the population, and the increase in available resources leads to larger litter sizes, earlier breeding ages among females and higher survival rates among pups. “
The Humane Society report does recommend implementing a leash law and monetary fine for off-leash dogs to avoid “problematic behavior that could lead to coyote-pet conflicts. Residents should be instructed to keep pets on a leash six feet long or less.”
And it also suggests banning the feeding of wildlife (with exceptions for bird feeders).
When confronted by a coyote, which is unusual given their skittishness, the Humane Society recommends “hazing” to scare them away.
Basic hazing means facing the coyote and being “big and loud,” the report states. You do that by waving your arms over your head, making loud noises with whistles, air horns, megaphones, soda cans filled with pennies, pots and pans or squirting the coyote with water until the coyote chooses to leave.
Then there is high-intensity hazing, recommended only for trained animal control officers and law enforcement officers. That involves “approaching the animal quickly and aggressively, throwing projectiles, paint balls, pepper balls, sling shots, clay pellets or pepper spray at the coyote.”