Coyote Convergence

It was only a couple days ago that my blog and biking bud Andrew over at his blog Liquid Premium posted a couple of amazing shots he got of a pair of city-based coyotes padding around West Hollywood in the wee hours like they owned it.

This morning in my inbox comes an email sent to a neghborhood grouplist relating a way-too-close-for-comfort encounter this past Saturday morning with a pair of coyotes. The sender wrote of feeling stalked by the duo, which reportedly followed her onto her property behaving very boldly (as coyotes are known to do).

If they’re the same duo that I flushed from our property and chased down the street well more than a year ago I wouldn’t be surprised. I chased them off again a few weeks later when they were in the backyard of a neighbors house, and as recently as a few weeks ago on an early morning walk with the dogs Susan and I saw one trot casually south along the sidewalk.

Anyway, the threatened neighbor did some research and found that urban coyotes are pretty much left to their own devices by the various city and state agencies and posted a few tips on how to minimize the opportunities for contact:

1. Remove unused pet food and water bowls at night.
2. Do not discard edible garbage where coyotes can get to it.
3. Keep tight fitting lids on garbage cans or store garbage inside a secure area. Do not store trash in trash bags.
4. Gardens should be harvested frequently and windfall fruit picked up.

And then asked for any other ideas, of which I took the opportunity to throw in mine (after the jump):

Dear neighbor,

I had similar experiences with what is probably the same pair of coyotes, who set up a temporary “den” in an overgrown corner of our front yard one morning last year. I ended up chasing them south down the 800 block of Occidental where I lost them after they made a right on Marathon and ran out of view. Another time I chased them out of a neighbor’s yard across the street. I last saw one of them a few weeks ago near Occidental and Marathon and it certainly looked big and healthy.

You write about the coyotes “practically hunting” you, and while not taking away from the understandable fright of what you experienced I would like to point out that what you see is not necessarily what you get. Certainly attacks can and do occur and I have no doubt the coyotes were scoping you out, but perhaps not as a target so much as a curiosity. Being predators and very attuned to reactions and smells and behaviors, coyotes will certainly and boldly push the envelope and that can make them come off as more aggressive and fearless than they truly are.

An important suggestion I’d like to offer as an addition to your list of actions is to push the envelope back at them when they are encountered. Just as it is often advised when encountering predators in the wild to “make yourself bigger and noisier” the same can apply to encounters with urban coyotes. You did the right thing in trying to frighten them by making noise with the book in your possession, but my bet is if you’d taken it to another level and yelled, clapped and/or waved your arms or even advanced toward them you could have turned their advances into retreats and driven them off your property. A coyote will almost always choose the path (or in this case, the neighborhood) of least resistance and by showing them they are not welcome will keep them away from you. Of course, that might mean they’re only as far away as the next block, but L.A.’s urban wildlife is always closer than you think it is anyway.

A couple other tips:

1) Secure your perimeter.  Homeowners should inspect and repair any weaknesses/breaches in their property’s boundary fencing in order to prevent coyotes from gaining access to yards. Renters should request their landlords do the same thing.

2) Clear away any areas of overgrown foliage on or around your property that otherwise might allow a coyote a comfortable place to rest during the day.

3) Keep pets inside — at least from sunset to later morning when coyotes are the most active.

4) However obvious it may be, children in areas of coyote sightings should also be closely monitored while at play outside.

It’s understandable if you can’t appreciate or respect coyotes, but please do your best to put them in the proper perspective. Just as the wolf is given an undeserved bad rap, so is the much smaller coyote. And as the top-level predator in the urban foodchain they serve an important purpose in keeping things checked and balanced.  Attacks on humans are the exception, not the rule. Statistically urban coyotes go for much more achievable prey: rats, squirrels, opossums, birds,
raccoons, and unfortunately small dogs and cats. The latter is certainly a painful reality to anyone who’s lost a beloved pet to them, but ultimately that’s not the coyote’s fault.

In addition to the encounters I’ve had with them on my block here on Occidental I’ve had several others with them in other parts of the city as well as in the wild, from the nearby Verdugo Mountains north of Glendale to the golf courses and trails of Gritffith Park to the depths of Death Valley, and I’ve always reveled in such opportunities. It is certainly wise to be wary and cautious of these creatures, but it is not so to be openly afraid of them.

If there’s one animal I admire the most it is the ever-adaptable coyote. There’s is one species that man has historically worked so hard to eradicate from this country and in response to such open and destructive disdain the coyote is actually proliferating.

Anyway, I hope this information is helpful to you and that any future coyote encounters you have are few and far between, or at least less apprehensive.

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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."