November 29, 2009

More coyotes: dog snatched off porch; "kid fends off pack attack with backpack"

Coyote of the First Snows, by David Cartier on Flickr.

Coyote grabs Boston Terrier from front porch as shocked owner looks on! 70-year-old sister off-roads to the rescue! Dog is saved! And the kid with the backpack is OK, too. [I swiped the post's title from commenter Mike in that same thread, because it was irresistible.]

But note: neither the Big Bear Discovery Center nor the Big Bear Lake Animal Hospital report any uptick in coyote attacks. It's the forest, for crissakes: if cats and small dogs look available, coyotes will take 'em. The local paper hasn't published any articles on coyote attacks, and the only mention I've seen of the backpack-wielding youngster was in that forum post. Not that I'm cavalier about taking the dogs outside at night, up in Big Bear. I'm just sayin'.

Meanwhile, "Don't Feed the Wildlife" signs are installed in Griffith Park:
In a ceremony Monday, Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge installed the first of these signs. LaBonge told those assembled that he often sees coyotes on his daily hikes through the park but never feeds them. "We just say hi to each other."
It occurs to me that while LaBonge and Br'er Coyote are enjoying their Dr. Dolittle moment, we've hit Level 6 on the Risk to Human Health and Safety scale:
According to Baker and Timm (1998), there are several signs that indicate a human health and safety risk between coyotes and humans. The following, in order of occurrence, are signs that coyotes pose a risk to human health and safety:

1. Increase in taking of pets at night.
2. Increase in observance of coyotes on streets and yards at night.
3. Observance of coyotes on streets and in parks and yards during daylight hours, in early morning and late afternoon.
4. Observance of coyotes chasing or taking pets during daylight hours.
5. Taking pets on leashes and chasing joggers, bikers, etc.
6. Observance of coyotes in and around children’s play areas and parks during mid-day.
[Source (pdf): Management of Urban Coyotes and Attacks in Green Valley, Pima County, Arizona, by C. D. Carrillo, J. Schmidt, D. Bergman, and G. Paz.]
So, is chucking a rock [or worse] at every too-close coyote the best way to keep them wild? According to two studies, once coyotes have moved onto your porch, what gets rid of them isn't guns and such — what scares them off [in SoCal, at least] is trapping:
Baker and Timm (1998) and Timm et al. (2004) noted that of all techniques used in controlling problem coyotes in southern California, trapping had the greatest observed effect of re-instilling a fear of humans into the local coyote population. When 2 to 5 coyotes were trapped in a problem locality, the remaining coyotes would often disperse. [Source (pdf).]
I love wild coyotes. I love hearing them, and I love knowing that they're playing their part in forest and foothill ecosystems. But I don't want coyotes standing outside the front door and waiting for a handout or a pet dog to grab, and I don't think anyone else in Southern California does, either.

Trouble is, the concept of "re-instilling a fear of humans into the local coyote population" is offensive to many people in SoCal cities and suburbs, no matter how much it benefits coyotes. Trapping is anathema. Putting food outside [for feral cats, in particular] won't stop anytime soon. So the problems escalate, from coyotes taking pets at night to coyotes attacking pets on leashes in broad daylight, until a child is hurt or a neighborhood's cats disappear or a pet dog is snatched from an elderly owner and killed. Then something has to be done. I don't envy the biologists charged with keeping silly people and wily coyotes safe from each other.

Coyote news [from this blog]
Coyotes at home and away [from this blog]
More on coyote bounties in Saskatchewan
Special Report: On Coyote Attacks and the Death of Canadian Folk Singer Taylor Mitchell
Urban Coyote Symposium: Papers from the Proceedings of the 12th Wildlife Damage Management Conference
Information on Urban Coyotes — both from CoyoteBytes [website last updated 1/09 (?)]


Anonymous said...

As someone who lost a dog to a conibear coyote trap, I have issues with the idea of widespread trapping.

Wouldn't hunting be an effective deterrant? It seems to me that mindful hunting, by DNR or others, could put the fear of man into coyotes while posing less risk to dogs. Maybe dogs could be used to track and hunt them, adding more fear of man / dog.

Sighthound mixes are used to hunt coyotes on the prairie west of us.

People also need to behave responsibly as they play a part. Leaving pet food out, having unsecured compost bins, free ranging small pets and open trash bins draws coyotes in. As long as food is available, coyotes will come.

Luisa said...

Janeen, here's an L.A. Times article on coyote trapping as practiced here in SoCal: link.

Several coyotes were shot here in town after homeowners complained about slaughtered cats and daytime coyote sightings. Not as many cat-killings since then, as far as I know [though I occasionally see coyotes in the neighborhood].

Anonymous said...

Thanks Luisa. Interesting article, and it just further convinces me that year-round hunting rather than seasonal trapping is the way to go.

I suspect that one reason coyotes are less of a problem in rural areas than in town in this part of the country is the fact that harassed rural folk are more likely to fix a coyote problem themselves with a gun than to call an agency to deal with it for them.

You can legally hunt coyotes all year here with very few limitations. While I'm sure so some extent they breed to fill the void, being shy of humans means they have somewaht less access to easy food and that should, in time, lead to smaller and more stable populations.

Anonymous said...

A Conibear trap is not used to trap coyotes in a city and would not be legal. Live snares and leghold traps are recommended, for obvious reasons, safety to pets and people.