Poisoned bait leaves bad taste for dog owners .
That’s how David Walker remembers the day when one of his two dogs nearly died due to food poisoning.
While walking on a trail above De Anza Park four weeks ago, Babushka, a Staffordshire terrier, ate what looked like a piece of meat that had been left on the path.
“She ate from two piles of vomit found less than a quarter of a mile from residential communities,” said Walker, who was taking a stroll with his girlfriend, Helena Kriel, and another friend.
The pet owner pulled the dog away from the grub but not before she’d gulped down several mouthfuls.
Within 20 minutes, the 11-yearold pet went into full body seizures. Walker and Kriel immediately took her to the veterinarian to seek treatment.
Babushka nearly died, Walker said, and it took several days before laboratory tests confirmed that the meat she’d consumed was laced with strychnine, a poison commonly used in pesticides.
Walker and Kriel returned to the trail to retrieve samples from the piles of undigested hunks of regurgitated meat.
They buried the rest of the food to prevent another animal from being harmed.
“The pain that Bushy went through was excruciating,” Kriel said. “To know that this happened to a coyote is cruel. It’s inexcusable to purposely be willing to inflict that kind of pain to any living thing,” she added.
Aside from endangering wildlife, poison found near a public park is a threat to children and pets, said Walker, who informed Calabasas officials that someone may be using toxic substances in an attempt to kill coyotes.
“God knows how many other dogs ate this,” he said.
Last year, the City of Calabasas stopped spending city funds to trap coyotes and instead created a public education program to teach residents how to protect themselves and their pets from the predators.
Alex Farassati, environmental services manager for Calabasas, said the city will update its website to remind people not to use poisoned bait to get rid of unwanted creatures. State code prohibits the use of strychnine to kill wildlife. That poison can only be used underground by licensed pest control companies, but even that is not advisable, Farassati said.
In addition to notifying the sheriff’s department and California Department of Fish and Game, Walker created a flier titled “Did you intend to murder my dog?” to make his neighbors aware of the recent poisoning incident.
Walker and Kriel volunteer at the California Wildlife Center, where they help to care for and rehabilitate injured wildlife.
“ We moved to Calabasas because of the wildlife, because we get to see coyotes, red-tailed hawks and others animals right on the edge of Malibu Creek State Park,” he said.
Cindy Reyes, executive director of the wildlife center, said many wild animals treated at the facility became ill after consuming prey, such as mice and rats, that ingested toxic bait.
“We get dozens of animals a year suffering from secondary poisoning, and many don’t make it,” Reyes said. “It’s important that people understand that poison is not the answer. It’s going to affect not only the coyotes but also, potentially, a number of different types of animals and birds.”
Poison travels up the food chain. Five years, ago, two mountain lions were found dead as a result of secondary poisoning, Reyes said.
Although many people don’t appreciate coyotes or understand why they’re important to the ecosystem, they should know it’s illegal to poison the animals, Reyes said.
Strychnine is still available to the public to use on rodents.
But “it’s really not a solution,” Residents should remove anything from their yards, such as food or water, that might attract coyotes to residential areas, Reyes said.