Spring brings color, wonder and joy into our lives but, in my area, it's also known to bring an increase in coyote activity. Coyotes breed in January through March and their pups are generally born in April and May. With more mouths to feed, adult coyotes become more visible, aggressive and territorial.
|This coyote was photographed from inside my living room in late April last year|
Along with thefts of catalytic converters, notice of coyote sightings are among the most prevalent topics on community social media posts. Last week, in an effort to get ahead of what's become a very emotional issue, our city sent a large, glossy, 4-page bulletin to all residents in an effort to educate them about how to deal with coyotes safely and effectively.
|In addition to the print bulletin, the city is holding a 2-hour forum for local residents on wildlife management, with an emphasis on coyotes|
|Coincidentally (or not), a local beach city paper also published a story on coyotes on their front page this week |
I saw my first coyotes up close when I was in graduate school, living in Santa Monica. A neighbor and I walked in the early morning before she left for work but on one occasion she wasn't feeling well so I took off by myself. Strolling through a neighborhood of expensive homes several blocks from my apartment, I noticed a woman in a skirt and heels running down the opposite side of the street with her dog on a leash. A minute or two later, I noticed three dogs off-leash. My first thought was that it was interesting that they all looked alike. A second later, I realized that the "dogs" headed my way were coyotes. I didn't run but I turned the corner and walked briskly in another direction.
When my husband and I moved to a different, densely-populated beach city several years later, I heard stories of coyote sightings but I never actually saw one. When we were in the process of buying our current house in a semi-rural area, I asked the real estate agent representing the seller if there were coyotes in the area. He downplayed the concern. I didn't see any coyotes for the first 5 years here but I did hear them at night sometimes. Then I began spotting them now and again during the daylight hours, and neighbors began complaining about their "extended" hunting schedules. I recall seeing a young coyote trotting down the street while being dive-bombed by a pair of crows. That incident had a comical element, as did an episode in 2018 we caught on our home security cameras.
|In March 2018, our newspaper disappeared from our driveway. Curious, my husband checked the security camera in an effort to discover if it just wasn't delivered, or if someone carried it off. It turns out that the "someone" in this case was a coyote. You can see him carrying the paper wrapped in red plastic in the upper middle section of the photo above.|
|He carried the paper halfway around the house before dropping it on the dirt path alongside the hedge behind our back garden border|
Not long afterwards, neighbors reported that their dog was snatched right in front of them. Then our next door neighbor lost her Pomeranian to a coyote that apparently jumped over her backyard fence. My cats had never been allowed to roam on their own but I did give them a little supervised time outside each morning. That came to an abrupt end in 2020.
|I was preparing to exit via our back door with Pipig on my heels when I nearly walked into a coyote on a collision course. It was hard to tell which one of us was more startled. I slammed the door and the coyote went running.|
Pipig has been confined to the house and her screened "catio" ever since. I even had my husband reinforce the bottom section of the catio to provide additional protection.
|She's an elderly cat now and less inclined to try sneaking out but I'm still careful about tracking her, especially when other people are in the house|
The city prohibits feeding coyotes, which seems obvious but I remember one elderly neighbor who'd made a practice of doing that in the mistaken belief that it would keep the coyotes from eating the stray cats she cared for. The city's bulletin provides a range of other recommendations to deter coyotes.
|I thought it was a great idea on the city's part to provide a page to educate kids about dealing with coyotes too|
Some of the key recommendations include:
- Removing all outside sources of food, including rotting fruit
- Introducing motion-activated lights or sprinklers
- "Hazing" coyotes by yelling and waving arms, using noisemakers, water hoses, and rocks or sticks if necessary until they run off
I'm not especially worried about the coyote "threat" myself but I'm concerned every time I see someone's pet cat or dog running loose through the neighborhood. Coyotes and other local predators (raccoons, possums and foxes) have been here longer than humans have. We need to respect their way of life while protecting the domestic animals we share our lives with by taking appropriate precautions.
|Rodents and wild rabbits are the coyote's natural prey but I admit to feeling a twinge of concern when I see baby rabbits like this one|
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by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party