September 15, 2011 Edition

Calabasas Environmental Commission wants residents and coyotes to coexist

By Sylvie Belmond


ON THE PROWL—A coyote is seen in the wild near Old Agoura. As encroachment by humans increases, coyote sightings have become more prevalent and attacks on pets have increased. The City of Calabasas, however, has softened its stance on problem coyotes. It will only destroy an animal if it poses a significant threat. 
Acorn file photo ON THE PROWL—A coyote is seen in the wild near Old Agoura. As encroachment by humans increases, coyote sightings have become more prevalent and attacks on pets have increased. The City of Calabasas, however, has softened its stance on problem coyotes. It will only destroy an animal if it poses a significant threat. Acorn file photo The best way to change a coyote’s behavior and prevent attacks on people and pets is to first change the way humans act, say members of the Calabasas Environmental Commission.

The commission recommended the city develop a public education campaign and coyote management plan to help people coexist with the animal. Trappings would only be allowed as a last resort in case one attacks a human, the commission says.

The Calabasas coyote debate began in July when several residents and wildlife activists opposed the city’s trapping and killing policy. The city suspended the policy the next day.

Previously, Calabasas had allowed the county’s agricultural department to catch and kill coyotes that were deemed aggressive by residents—as long as snares could be placed safely away from homes.

Since 2003, Calabasas has received 36 coyote-related complaints and spent about $18,000 to reimburse the county for coyote control. The county charges about $500 per service call.

The city has received three coyote calls so far this year. On Aug. 8, a resident on Luna Court reported that coyotes were congregating on a hill behind her backyard. The woman was worried the predators would jump her fence and take her dog. The city informed her that the trapping policy had been suspended.

Project Coyote

To stop the Calabasas trappings, wildlife activists working with Project Coyote, a nonprofit organization promoting coexistence between people and coyotes, collected more than 6,000 signatures from around the world on an online petition.

Alex Farassati, environmental services supervisor for the city, also received about 1,900 email petitions generated by another website whose operators are opposed to killing coyotes. Lastweek, half a dozen more residents urged officials to ban the “cruel and inhumane trappings.”

“Studies show that trapping is ineffective,” said resident Randi Feilich Hirsch, a coyote advocate.

“Calabasas High School is the home of the Coyotes. We certainly don’t want to be known for killing our own mascot,” Brad Hirsch said.

Topanga filmmaker Timothy Rhys, who is making a documentary about coyotes, said the predator plays an important role in the environment because they reduce rodent populations. They’re also adaptable and will breed faster if persecuted.

“The most effective way to control coyotes is to control ourselves,” Rhys said.

Coyotes are becoming bolder because they’re accustomed to humans.

“Food, water and shelter is really what wildlife is after, and it’s abundant in urban areas,” said Cynthia Reyes, executive director of the California Wildlife Center on Piuma Road.

Offensive tactics

To reduce the potential for conflict, Reyes said people should keep all food indoors and eliminate water sources. By feeding other wildlife such as squirrels and birds, people are inadvertently atrtacting coyotes.

Residents living near open spaces can use motion-activated lights and noise to scare the animals away. If someone encounters a coyote on a trail, they should raise their arms and make loud noises.

People can also throw objects to scare the animals, but they should never run from a coyote because the action might trigger the animal’s predator instincts, Reyes said.

“It may be lovely to see a coyote cross the street and not paying attention, but it’s better to make loud noises to make their environment unpleasant and make them scared of humans. You need to be the predator in these situations,” she said.

Reyes also said unneutered dogs can attract coyotes.

Commissioner Michael Karagosian said the city should form a definition of “inappropriate coyote behavior” to ensure that lethal means are used only as a last resort.

“I’m concerned that people won’t change their behavior, leading to more requests for trappings. It would be very easy for people to think a coyote is a threat. They won’t think about what they do to cause the aggression.”

Tips for warding off coyotes and information about the predator’s habits will be posted soon on the city’s website, http:// cityofcalabasas.com.

2011-09-15 / Community

Return to top

View Normal Site