Q: I have been told that there have been increased sightings of coyotes throughout the city. What type of precautions should my family and I be taking to ensure our safety from these wild animals?
A: This is an issue that more and more cities are facing. Not only in our city, but cities everywhere in Southern California. Coyotes used to be seen only in the northern end of our city. However, we are now seeing a growing number of coyote incidents throughout our entire city and we need to take some precautions. First, let’s look at some information from an article adapted from the Los Angeles Animal Services Department about coyotes (canis latrans):
The California Department of Fish and Game surveys give an estimated population range of 250,000 to 750,000 coyotes throughout California. The coyote weighs an average of 18 to 40 pounds. They can run at speeds of 25 mph and sprint up to 40 mph.
Although coyotes may be seen in a family group which may contain four or more, it is the urban coyote that is often seen traveling alone or in pairs. The coyote is a very clever indigenous predator that has conformed to living in close proximity to humans. They are often seen in residential areas around vacant lots, hillsides, parks, city streets, landscaped areas and abandoned properties.
Coyotes will travel via use of horse trails, fire roads, aqueducts, flood control channels, freeways, erosion gutters, city streets and sidewalks. Coyotes find water from a variety of sources throughout the city. Their diet consists primarily of rodents, small mammals and insects. When hunting in a pack they will go for larger prey such as deer. Coyotes are also scavengers and will eat fruit, vegetable matter and trash. They are opportunistic as well and will not hesitate to kill cats, small dogs and poultry.
Fences are a great barrier in preventing coyotes from accessing our yards. Coyotes are capable of scaling or jumping fences upwards of 5 1/2 feet in height. They can be deterred by increasing the fence height to at least 6 feet and adding an angle at the top facing outward at 45 degrees and 16 inches wide. (For fences over 6 feet, check local fence height laws, a variance may be required.) Bury the bottom of the fence at least 12 to 18 inches underground and line the trench with rock to prevent the coyote from digging underneath. An apron underground at the base extending an additional 18 to 24 inches out from the fence should be added as well. A unique commercial product called “Coyote Rollers” can prevent coyotes from scaling most back-yard fences. See the following link for more information — coyoteroller.com/home.
Below is a list of DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to dealing with coyotes:
• Keep your pets indoors or secured in an outdoor kennel. Environmental factors can affect the time a coyote may appear. Coyotes may be active during daylight hours also.
• You may carry something with you for protection such as an air horn, whistle, walking stick or cane.
• Confine small animals and birds that you cannot keep indoors to covered enclosures constructed of a heavy gauge wire mesh. Coyotes can break through chicken wire.
• Put all trash bags inside trash cans and keep all outdoor trash can lids securely fastened to the containers. Place trash bins inside sheds, garages or other enclosed structures.
• Pick fruit from trees as soon as it ripens and pick up all fallen fruit. Cut low hanging branches to avoid the coyote feeding from trees. Trim ground-level shrubbery.
• Vegetable gardens should be protected with heavy duty garden fences or enclosed by a greenhouse. Check with your local plant nursery to see what deterrent products are available. If you have access to the Internet, you may find some items on-line.
• Keep your property well lit at night.
• Close off crawl spaces under porches, decks and sheds. Coyotes use such areas for resting and raising young.
• Do not feed wild animals. It is illegal to feed predatory wildlife in the Los Angeles County (L.A.C.C. Sec. 10.84.010).
• Do not leave pet food or water bowls outside if your pet is not outdoors. Local law requires that food and water be available to your pet when it is kept outside. However, bring in the dishes when your pet is inside.
• Do not set your trash out for pick-up until the day of pick-up to reduce attracting predators in the middle of the night.
• Do not attempt to pet or otherwise make contact with them. Coyotes are wild animals and should be treated as such.
• Never leave small children unattended.
• Do not throw food into an open compost pile.
Deterrents & scare tactics
• Spray a little ammonia in your trash can several times a week to cut the odor of food.
• Place moth balls or moth ball cakes in areas where coyotes sleep or hang out to deter them from staying.
• Motion activated devices such as lights, strobe lights and sprinklers can be useful.
• Use radios that are set to talk or news stations to help deter the coyotes.
• Use a Coyote shaker: A can containing a few coins which can be shaken and thrown at the coyote.
• Throw balls or rocks. Bang two pans together, blow a whistle, use an air horn or use high-pressure water sprayer.
• Alternate the deterrents to prevent the coyote from getting used to one method.
If a coyote approaches you, do not run. Make eye contact with the coyote, wave your arms and shout in a low, loud tone. If possible, throw objects at the coyote to scare it away. Make yourself look as big as possible. If you are wearing a jacket open it up like a cape. If possible go toward active or populated areas but do not turn your back on the coyote.
Closely supervise your dog. Walk your dog on a leash at all times and stay close to high pedestrian traffic areas. Avoid bushy areas or paths near abandoned properties. If you notice a coyote when walking your dog, keep your dog as close to you as possible and move towards an active area. Never encourage or allow your dog to interact or “play” with coyotes.
For other questions, please contact the Santa Monica Animal Control at (310) 458-8595.
For more in depth information about coyotes please see the below link: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74135.html
This column was prepared by NRO Jeff Glaser (Beat 3: Downtown, including the Third Street Promenade). He can be reached at (424) 200-0683 or firstname.lastname@example.org.