nature


So there was this post recently to the EastsiderLA blog about a coyote trapping this past July in Silver Lake that went horribly wrong. A property owner, reportedly after some sort of  “coyote vs. dog” incident, had contracted with a trapper who set up a snare in hopes of catching the predator. Well, the snare, which was reportedly was supposed to catch the coyote by the leg wound up around the coyote’s neck for a prolonged period and there ended up being heartwrenching video made of the efforts by Animal Control personnel to free the exhausted and injured animal… which died about a week later.

What follows is the comment interchange in the thread from that post between myself and “skr,” another EastsiderLA blog reader, and it began after my response to another commenter, “slm,” who I disagreed with when he or she referred to the tragedy an “unfortunate accident.” After that “skr” asks me a question that I answer sincerely — and with a supporting graphic! I had the feeling that the question was posed not in search of knowledge but in search of an argument and soon we’re off to the debate between myself and what’s essentially a coyote demonizer, whose half-baked rebuttal to my call for property owners to put exclusionary methods into effect, is that there is apparently an epidemic of poor and old homeowners either completely without fences or with ones in terrific states of disrepair who just don’t have the money or ability to do proactive things proactive like reinforce their perimeters, keep their pets inside, and otherwise eliminate/minimize whatever is causing the coyotes to breach their yards.

His reactionary solution is basically for the city to contract a force of on-call riflemen to roam the city shooting any and all “problem” coyotes on sight (and to this guy a problem coyote is any coyote). Ironically, he proposes this expensive — nevermind horribly violent and potentially unsafe — solution after deriding the Animal Services Wildlife Officer in another separate comment for wasting taxpayer money making the valiant effort to free this coyote from its cruel capture.

So without further preambling, here ya go:

slm: This is quite saddening. However, a word for all those feeling outraged at the cruelty. I’m pretty sure the noose is supposed to trap the animal by the leg in this type of trap, and this outcome was an unfortunate accident.

Will Campbell: The hiring and compensating of an alleged professional trapper using methods that resulted in the horrific destruction of the coyote is “unfortunate” to put it mildly, but not an “accident” by any stretch of the imagination.

This would not have happened had sane and humane ways been employed to exclude coyotes from the property.

skr: How exactly are you supposed to exclude coyotes that can easily scale a six foot fence which is the maximum fence height allowed by code?

Will Campbell: Excellent question, skr: An effective device to aid in preventing coyotes from scaling fences are known as “Coyote Rollers,” which mount at the head of the barrier and prevent the coyote from being able to grab onto the top of it.

coyote9

skr: At $7/lnft uninstaled [sic], not many can afford those unfortunately.

Will Campbell: I got the sense you might either be asking rhetorically and you’d find a way to fault my response. You asked “How exactly how are you supposed to exclude coyotes that can easily scale a six-foot fence?” and I gave you the answer to it. Had you asked “How exactly how are you supposed to exclude coyotes that can easily scale a six-foot fence but not spend $7/lnft uninstalled?” I’d encourage you to DIY a similar and effective and far less costly system using brackets and PVC pipe as illustrated below.

i08Rolling_pins_side2

skr: I found fault with your suggestion because it increases the already high cost of fencing by about 50% and it was presented as such an obvious and easy solution even though it is out of reach of many people. Especially compared to trapping and killing predatory vermin. Plus there is also the even more common problem of coyotes going under fences, which necessitates trenching around the property and installing fencing below grade. That is extremly expensive. It’s a lot easier to tell people they should just humanely exclude coyotes than to actually exclude coyotes.

Will Campbell: I didn’t present it as an “obvious and easy solution.” You asked for a remedy and I showed you a remedy. And then when you balked at that I propose a DIY alternative suggestion that would drastically reduce the costs involved. Yet from out of nowhere you opt instead to suddenly look to the bottom of this hypothetical fence and bemoan the dollars that would be involved in hypothetically reinforcing that.

Well, here’s a no-cost solution to prevent having to [do] that: Whatever is in your backyard that’s attracting the coyotes, whether it’s pets, garden veggies, fallen fruit, trash, chickens, raw hanging sides of beef, or any other sources of food or water or shelter: eliminate them. Then the coyotes will leave your neighbors’ swiss cheese fence alone and trouble people like you who’d rather just shoot the creatures while criticizing Officer Greg Randall for doing his job.

But you’re absolutely right in that it’s easy to offer solutions. As you’ve proven, easier still is it to shoot them down. Repeatedly.

skr: I don’t have coyotes in my property because I trenched around the lot and placed fencing below grade and filled the trench with broken concrete rubble. That plus some electric fencing works great. what I do have are elderly neighbors on fixed incomes that simply cannot afford the measures you suggest and are physically incapable of DIY solutions. I have neighbors that can’t afford fencing let alone the expensive solutions you suggested. They have small children like the one that was almost dragged into the bushes recently by a coyote in the cemetary [sic]. The solution in that case was to shoot three coyotes in the cemetary [sic]. You seem to not care about the most vulnerable in society. There is a solution for these vulnerable people available to city services, coyote population control. For those with the means your solutions are good ones, but they simply don’t comprehensively address the needs of all those living in high coyote danger areas.

Will Campbell: You’re quite the double-sided coin, skr. On one side you complained sarcastically in another comment about Officer Randall coming to the aid of this coyote and it being a waste of city services and taxes. But in a complete flip from that stance you, being this champion for the elderly, infirm, and poverty-stricken masses who are apparently terrorized by the creatures and who are unfortunately unable to either have a fence let alone make it predator resistant, want to devote those stretched-thin city services and tax dollars to what you call “coyote population control” — a “solution” that doesn’t “comprehensively address” the issue because it has NEVER worked.

For as long as humans and coyotes have been adversaries, humans have attempted to control coyote populations either by outright extermination attempts or by much smaller culls. Well guess what: The result has been the coyotes not only surviving those ill-conceived, short-sighted and reactionary efforts, but thriving.

So you go ahead and cite that rare “coyote attacks child” incident as reason enough for loading up the firearms, marching into battle in a cemetery and killing three of them. Felt good, didn’t it? Yeah, you really showed them who’s boss. Trouble is, you know what the surviving coyotes did after losing those three? They went and “comprehensively addressed” their needs by making five more that looked just like the ones you destroyed.

I have to chuckle at your accusation of me of not caring about the vulnerable in society because I have [the] audacity to promote effective precautionary measures that are sane and humane. It’s funny because to protect those vulnerable of which you speak, you’d rather use deadly force and send bullets flying through the city to cure the “coyote problem.” It’s not a coyote problem. It’s a people problem. People like you.

Bottom line: You’ve got your way of wanting to deal with coyotes, I’ve got mine. But here’s the reality check: the city of Los Angeles is a faaaar cry from that farm you grew up shooting everything that could potentially harm your assets. As such your way of dealing with coyotes is never going to happen. So you can sit behind your reinforced electrified fence and keep shaking your fist and yelling for the right to shoot the varmints on sight and get nowhere. OR, you can adapt toward a more productive way of thinking that in the end can be of benefit to those less fortunate than you. Your call.

And if you need a lesson on adapting, look no further than the coyote who’s a master at it.

skr: Yes, the coyotes survived the culls. They even thrived. But they were less likely to cause harm to those in urban environments because there was food to go around and they didn’t have to venture into people’s backyards to avoid starvation. Those that can afford to exclude coyotes should. But exclusion is not always effective and the excluded coyotes just end up in the yards of people that can’t afford exclusion. They don’t deserve to bear the burden disproportionately just because they can’t afford more extensive measures. That is where a cull comes into play. Now since this is an urban environment, it is obvious that simply letting everyone pick up rifle and start shooting is untenable. However, that is not the only way to cull a population. High caliber air rifles wielded by licensed and insured shooters can be effective in an urban area. Those shooters would know to only take shots when there is a sufficient backstop to insure safety. A cull can be done safely and with a minimum of expense. Just like we don’t have to eradicate the coyotes, we also don’t have to let them run wild and do nothing to control a dangerous population. Both of those solutions are at the extreme ends of the spectrum.

With regards to city expenditures, you can try to paint me as being hypocritical all you like. All I’m saying is that I think it is a waste of money to try to save an animal that belongs to a wildlife population that needs culling. If they want to spend money culling the population in order to protect life and property, I’m all for that. Spending money to endanger life and property, not so much.

Killing an animal never feels good. That is why we would always try to make it as clean as possible and didn’t use traps. However, regardless of how bad it sucks to kill an animal, sometimes it is necessary.

Will Campbell: TRY to paint you as a hypocrite? You’re the one holding the brushes; with the one in your left you derided and dismissed the job Officer Randall did as a waste of your taxes, and with the one in the right you’re calling for more of those taxes to go to fulfilling future city budgets that will include a contracted cadre of “licensed and insured shooters” roaming our streets with high-caliber air rifles taking out any coyote with impunity, providing it can be put down only if a sufficient backstop is present, of course.

You’re right that destroying an animal never feels good — and you’re right that it is sometimes necessary. But your idea of making it “clean” relates to reactive and ultimately ineffective killing, while my idea of making it clean relates to proactive measures that will reduce negative contacts with coyotes and certainly prevent the horrific results such as the incident central to this post.

Since we’re going around in circles now, let me just copy and paste a modified version of what I closed my previous reply, and then sit back and await whether you agree to disagree or feel compelled to submit another counterpunch:

Bottom line: You’ve got your way of wanting to deal with coyotes, I’ve got mine. But here’s the reality check: the city of Los Angeles is a faaaar cry from that farm you grew up shooting everything that could potentially harm your assets. As such your way of dealing with coyotes is never going to happen in so densely an urban environment, one in which the coyote is seen as an integral part of the urban wildlife foodchain, and not myopically as little more than a predatory threat. So you can sit behind your reinforced electrified fence and keep demanding the city start using deadly force against them, or, you can recognize the futility of that mindset and instead adapt toward a more productive way of thinking that in the end can be of benefit to those less fortunate than you. Your call.

More to come? There may be an update to this post if “skr” can’t
resist the compulsion to make some sort of deflective response.

In the 12-plus years I’ve been a-blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a week or two without posting SOMETHING. So you can imagine my shock when I saw I’d last been seen here basically more than three weeks ago.

The funny thing is, I’ve still been communicating, but mostly on Facebook, which for reasons known only to Mark Zuckerberg has been able to squirrel its way in to becoming something of my defacto mode of e-communication. I don’t even tweet much anymore.

But enough about that. Without any further preambling, here’s some of the stuff I’ve been doing of late:

1) Kayaking The Los Angeles River

As part of a pilot program this summer, a section of the long-lost Los Angeles River coursing through Elysian Valley was reopened to the public for use as a recreational resource, an opportunity angelenos have not had since the 1930s when the river’s channelization was begun to prevent flooding.

As a boy I accidentally discovered the river, and from that single experience I have never stopped being enamored with and zealously protective of what so many others have dismissed as our city’s woeful waterway — little more than a drainage ditch to the sea. Though I’ve been aware of its potential, I never imagined that one day I’d see such a sea change in perception so that  the river would made accessible and embraced not as a prohibited place but as public parkland to be explored and experienced and as something to connect with after so long a disconnect.

kayakroute

So for me, thanks to L.A. River Expeditions (Facebook), to be among the first wave during this historic first season and doing what you see in these clips at the top and after the jump: putting a kayak into its waters and putting my butt into that kayak and paddling — however awkwardly — downstream for a water-level perspective of my beloved river, it’s not a dream come true. Because I never dared to dream this could ever happen. Not in my lifetime.

No, it’s much more than that. To me it’s nothing short of a glorious miracle. And for that I’m thankful to everyone who has fought so tirelessly and valiantly over the years to get the city’s much-maligned and misbegotten river recreated in enough influential minds so that it can now be leisurely recreated upon.

Physically and soulfully these waters were very moving.

2) Unrocking The parkway in front of our house

I can’t remember if it was four or five years ago, but it all began when our next door neighbor contacted me to tell me he was redoing the section of parkway in front of his house with river rocks, and would I be interested in going in for half of the cost and doing mine as well to give the two parkways some continuity.

I figured why not. It would look better than the dirt and dead grass that had been there and it would be an opportunity to do something positive with the guy with whom, frankly, I’m not on the best of terms.

So a few weeks later he shows up with a metric ton of the palm-sized rocks and we pour them out, and the continuity lasted for all of as long as it took for the grasses and weeds to grow from between our rocks. See, he keeps his section of the parkway completely sterile, using gardeners he’s instructed to pluck pretty much even the slightest growth of green. Me? I’m my own gardener and I instructed myself not to give a hoot about what grows.

The only thing I’d been meticulous about is putting the rocks back that people for some stupid reason can’t resist kicking or tossing all over the place: the gutter, the street, the sidewalk, our front steps. And yes, I’ve even confronted people I’ve witnessed taking the rocks – literally picking up several and walking off as if there’s a “Free Rocks — All You Can Carry!” sign posted.

Fast forward to this week, and I’m finally done with these rocks. Agreeing to partner this design option for our parkways did nothing to improve things with the neighbor, and so I decided that it’s time to reclaim or refresh our decidedly seedy section of the parkway and remove the river rocks.

I started yesterday (August 12), and quickly discovered that it was something easier said than done. What I thought would take a couple hours of clearing the roughly 40′ x 4′ area, is going to take about eight or more… mostly because over the ensuing rainy seasons, what started as one layer of rocks on the surface of the soil is now in places two or three layers of rocks that have been buried by the flow of water and soil, hastened by those people who’ve tromped on them and pushed them deeper. It’s really quite remarkable how low some of these rocks have gone.

I found out during the first four/five foot long section I cleared from the driveway apron to the magnolia tree, which also involved digging up all the dead patches of grass. And there are a LOT of dead patches of grass.

Soooo, what you’re seeing here in this timelapse is roughly 45 minutes of me attacking with little more than a spade and begloved hands the second four/five foot section between the magnolia tree and the brick walkway. Ended up filling the bucket three times. That’s a lotta rocks. And I’ll do it again tomorrow. And the day after. Until it’s done.

Not sure yet what I plan to do once it’s all cleared. I may just leave it bare. I may plant something. Or I may supersaturate the soil and set the rocks back into the wet dirt side by side like so many tiles. At least that way if some idiot wants to take one or toss one  it’ll require a little more effort than just bending over and getting grabby.

Menial labor? Meaningful labor? Bit of both from where I’m toiling.

A small chrysalis found in the backyard dirt a couple weeks ago developed in the safety of our old frogquarium where I placed it, and when I checked it this afternoon found the moth within had emerged:

moth

So I popped the top and just managed to catch it on camera before it lifted off.

This is not to be confused with the giant chrysalis found March 6 that’s also in the frogquarium still a work-in-progress.

You might remember last September when I wrote about visiting the garden of Bamboo Charlie (nee Charles Ray Walker) after I learned of his sudden demise. If not, you can read and see about it here.

Bamboo Charlie was homeless by choice and a beloved fixture in that area near the Boyle Heights Sears, carving out a quirky paradise on a slice of land near the east bank of the LA River. After I learned about him when his story made the LA Times, I failed to go see him when he was alive and so was heartbroken to only be able to visit his place after he was gone. It was a magical place.

One of the things I did when Susan and I visited was take a mature chili pepper from one of the many plants he had cultivated and put it in my pocket. When I got home, I harvested the seeds and planted them.

They sprouted and grew pretty quickly and even blossomed when pretty much everything else around the house was battening down for winter, but I wasn’t sure if the bees had pollinated any of the plant’s flowers. I should never doubt bees getting the job done because when taking out the trash yesterday, I glanced its way and was surprised to find two peppers have begun growing from where blooms had been, like so:

bcpeppers

It’s a small tribute, but I’m happy to see Charlie’s legacy live on. Heretofore they are called The Red Hot Charlie Peppers.

I’ve heard seen my share of terrestrial wildlife while mountain biking in the Verdugos — lizards, toads, bobcats, coyotes, deer, a coast horned lizard, garter snakes. On this pre-gluttony Thanksgiving Day ride I added a baby rattlesnake to the list. Found, as seen below in the center of the frame, sunning itself on the asphalt section of the trail just below Tongva Peak (click it for the bigger picture):

It started moving off trail as soon as I stopped to admire it. Not having time to get my phone camera out, I simply pointed the handlebar-mounted GoPro cam at it to capture it before it disappeared in the scrub.

Here’s the timelapse vid of the bottom-to-top-to-bottom ride (my standard 5.75-mile route going up the Beaudry North and Verdugo motorways about 2,200 feet to Tongva Peak and then back down via the Verdugo and Beaudry South motorways):

One of the most splendiferous bonuses of having a backyard to walk out into is those times when I do so in the midst of a visit by any number of creatures. Though some are more welcome than others (I’m holding my nose and looking at you skunks), all are wondrous reminders that even at our most city-fied and urbanized, nature finds a way.

This morning’s encounter involved a very healthy and huge juvenile red-tailed hawk who I found perched high in the tallest of our twin palms.

It obliged me just long enough to run inside and return with my camera to get the following sloppy series as it made its exit northward to less paparazzi-rich environs (click them for the bigger pictures):

There’s actually a couple other gourds out in the backyard still growing — one barely a pound in weight and the other probably about six or seven (and shaped awesome/ominously like a skull) — but they’re still mostly green and probably still will be by Halloween so I left them alone to continue to do their thing, and instead harvested the three that have orange’d up the most:

The most consistent thing is that we went five for five. We planted five seeds back on July 4 and each one ultimately produced one pumpkin — along with an hellacious amount of flowering vines. The least consistent thing was their size. I’m not knocking that… hell, I’m thrilled that we got something for our trouble. It’s just curious the differences.

Above (click it for the bigger picture), from the left: 3 pounds 11.25 ounces, 11 pounds even, and 1 pound 10.75 ounces

Special note: We call the smallest one on the right our “special needs” pumpkin because she leans over no matter which way you set her down (a product of growing up somewhat strangled between competing vines from the other two pumpkins.

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