CITYWIDE — On New Year’s Eve, Mary Hubbell, of Ocean Park, heard screeching sounds coming from the neighborhood.
She’s not sure exactly what it was, but she knows it wasn’t neighbors celebrating the end of 2013.
“It sounded like an animal being killed,” she said.
Hubbell has not yet seen a coyote but her neighbors have spotted them as far southeast as Sixth Street and Hollister Avenue, heading in the direction of the ocean.
She blocks her doggy door at night, fearing that one of the wild canines could hurt her pet. Neighbors started spotting the coyotes in her section of Ocean Park last month.
The Santa Monica Police Department has received fewer coyote complaints in recent months but Animal Control officers do believe they may be living in the area between Santa Monica Airport and the south end of the city limit near the Los Angeles border, SMPD Sgt. Jay Moroso said.
Neither Animal Control officers nor Airport Service officers have found dens or fresh tracks inside the airport property.
No coyotes were successfully trapped in Santa Monica last year so it’s unclear why the coyote complaints are declining. Perhaps residents are learning to live with them.
Humans, and all their food, are the biggest draw for these urban coyotes, Moroso said. SMPD has actively publicized tips for deterring coyote intrusions and the education may be paying off.
“Coyotes love it when you do not clean your barbecue grill, leave low hanging or fallen fruit on the ground, don’t clean up spilled bird seed, don’t clean your trash cans, leave food and water out for your pets, and leave your pets outside,” Moroso wrote in an e-mail. “Their sense of smell directs them to these food areas where the food supply is abundant.”
Hubbell favors education over trapping, given the options presented by law to SMPD. California law does not allow the relocation of coyotes.
“They tend to be relocated to another coyote family’s area where they encroach on them and a fight ensues,” Moroso explained. “The fight results in injury or death to the animal. If that does not happen, the coyote will tend to wander back into an urban area where they become someone else’s problem.”
For this reason, if police do manage to catch a coyote in one of their traps they are required to set them free on the spot or chemically euthanize them.
“If the options are kill them or learn to live with them, I’d rather try to live with them,” Hubbell said. “Maybe if we stop leaving trash and food out, they’ll decide to move elsewhere. How do we coexist and just learn to be aware?”
Coexisting is the norm in many U.S. cities. Los Angeles residents have been living with the urban coyotes for years, according to a recent KCET article. The canines have been spotted on Los Angeles River islands of late. A wild coyote, nicknamed Hal, was loose in Central Park in New York City for several days in 2006, according to a New York Times article.
But conflict is as common as coexistence.
More than a million coyotes were killed by government agencies in the 1900s according to a Smithsonian Magazine article. In 2003, Wildlife Services killed more than 75,000.
Animal Control checks Santa Monica’s stationary traps everyday but have yet to have to put one down.
For now, police say, the safest bet is for residents to educate themselves. A list of tips is available on the SMPD website at: santamonicapd.org/Content.aspx?id=44864