SILVER LAKE—Neighbors around the hillside communities of Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Echo Park have noticed an increase in coyote presence over the last few months, concerning some over the safety of their pets and children. In a number of these encounters, residents have reported the animals also seem surprisingly comfortable around humans, adding to the worry.
According to City of Los Angeles Animal Services Wildlife Officer Gregory Randall, coyote populations fluctuate through the seasons and that may be adding to this perception. However, he continued, it is likely the drought across California is also contributing to an increase in fauna around the region who are more desperate looking for food and water. So as prey species move out of arid regions, so will predators such as coyotes.
Randall stressed that coyotes are native to the area and likened trying to keep them out of the area to trying to keep lightning out of the sky. Preventative measures such as professional traps are not solutions, he said, “Removal is not going to end the possibility of another one coming.”
“Part of the problem we’re also facing is that coyotes are the most vilified animals in North America,” he said. “There are a lot of things that make you frightened, but people are going to be more frightened by coyotes than the guy next door with two vicious dogs — it’s just par for the course.”
Most important is forethought in dealing with coyotes, he said, “really thinking things out before you do it.” He suggested checking one’s backyard before letting a pet out to make sure there’s nothing there; not leaving pet or human food outside; and fixing holes in fences and the use of covered pet enclosures in backyards. Likewise, he said, young children should not be left unattended outside in areas where coyotes have been seen.
Each year Randall visits Ivanhoe Elementary school in Silver Lake and teaches 3rd graders how to handle encounters with wild animals: With coyotes, he said he tells them, don’t run away or scream in a high pitched voice, they might mistake for another animal. Instead, speak in a loud voice very sternly. With an aggressive domestic dog, he says, it’s different — leave. And with a skunk, he said with a chuckle, he tells them, “You just give them plenty of room and don’t do anything.”
“It is what you do to turn a negative encounter in to a positive encounter and reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence,” he said.
Specifically with coyotes, Animal Services offers a list of other deterrents and safety precautions: sprinkle cayenne pepper or chili powder in areas where coyotes sleep to deter them from staying; use motion-activated strobe lights, sprinklers or radios; and do not walk your dog off-leash.
If you encounter a coyote and feel threatened, it is recommended you wave your arms, speak loudly in a low tone, throw objects while maintaining eye contact, make yourself look as big as possible, take off any jacket and swing it over your head and walk towards populated or active areas without turning away from the animal. Randall also suggested anyone walking a dog attach an emergency whistle or air horn to their leash.
In February Silver Lake resident Roger Wolfson was confirmed by the Los Angeles City Council as a new commissioner on Los Angeles’ Animal Services Board of Commissioners. Familiar with the area, he offered a reminder that coyotes are an important part of the local ecosystem.
“Coyotes are a natural part of wildlife,” he said. “We’re in a semi-urban area, but there’s lots of hills and there’s lots of undeveloped land. And so, as a result, there’s a relatively large rodent population and a relatively small mammal population. And even if we were capable of getting rid of all the coyotes, we wouldn’t want to because they have a natural place in the food chain. They keep the small mammal population in check and the small mammal population keeps the rodent population in check.”
Wolfson said he understands neighbors may have concerns over the coyotes but hopes cool heads prevail.
“How we deal and address our wildlife concerns, help define us as a neighborhood and as community,” he said. “And if we respond with a calm, level head and a good base of knowledge and concern for our neighbors and for their pets, we can limit whatever threat there is and have a happier community.”
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