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Manhattan Beach Looks To Address Coyote Issue

Jul 08, 2022 08:42AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

(This is a stock photo of a coyote - NOT one that was actually seen in Manhattan Beach)

Following resident complaints of numerous coyote sightings and at least one confirmed pet casualty, the Manhattan Beach City Council is looking into trapping services.

The City Council voted, 5-0, on Tuesday night to direct staff to provide a preliminary assessment of trapping services for coyotes. In addition, city staff will continue to promote the "Keep Me Wild" coyote educational and awareness campaign.

Despite hearing from two representatives from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that trapping and euthanizing is not an effective deterrent for the larger coyote population, the council decided to move forward with the preliminary assessment on trapping. 

Manhattan Beach Mayor Steve Napolitano said that he felt the city needed to take that strong action in light of coyotes going after local pets. "If there are all of these other foods out there, then why are they going after pets?" he asked. "It's becoming more of a norm, and I don’t think it should be a norm. We would not let wild dogs run around the beach."

Coyote Observations on Par With Last Year's High

So far this year, the city has recorded 9 official coyote sightings, one confirmed predation (killing of small animal or pet), and 5 unconfirmed predations (meaning there is no direct evidence that the coyote was responsible for the killing; coyotes also may find and eat roadkill or animals that died from other causes).

That total of 15 observations so far this year is on pace to match last year's high of 30 total coyote observations. The total number of observations were up in 2016-2017, down in 2018-2019, and back up again in 2020, according to data collected by the city of Manhattan Beach. 

(Source: City of Manhattan Beach)

Will Euthanasia Curb the Problem?

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, two California Department of Fish and Wildlife experts told the City Council that euthanization can be successful when targeted at specific individual coyotes who have been deemed a public safety concern. However, they said, cities have not had good luck with trapping and euthanizing coyotes as a means of population control because more coyotes tend to come in their place.

"The long and short of it is, lethal control of coyote populations isn’t very much a long term effective solution," said Jessica West, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Part of the reason why lethal control - outright population control - isn’t very effective is that we’ve actually found it can increase the numbers. Other neighboring coyote packs will recognize that a space has essentially opened and they will fill it. They can actually have an increase in litter sizes when this occurs. For coyote populations, food, competitors, and space will be regulating their population, not human intervention."

The Fish and Wildlife Department has advocated for a "community-based" education approach, urging people to do things like bring pets inside at night, not leave pet food, dropped fruit, or water outside, and to bring in bird feeders at night.

But some homeowners say that those advised precautions are simply not enough. Kristin Muller, a Liberty Village resident, told councilmembers on June 21 that her family had had three cats killed by coyotes in the last two months - cats whom they had rescued from an abandonment situation, and who would not live inside. The family did everything it could to shield the cats from coyotes, but once the coyote spotted its prey, it kept returning until it hunted down the cats. "Trust me when I say there’s nothing more that can humanly be done to keep these poor cats safe," she told City Council.

Additionally, an anti-coyote activist from the Palos Verdes Peninsula called in to the July 5 meeting to say that the Fish and Wildlife recommendations were not strong enough to stop coyotes. "Even if we were to get rid of all the fruit trees, and all of the three million feral cats in Los Angeles County, [coyotes] are not going away unless you start culling their population," she said.

Councilmember Suzanne Hadley said that she did not want to take a "blame the victim" approach for homeowners and pet owners. "I do think we have a problem, and I do think our community is asking us to do something. I’m not going to say ‘Cover up your trash, shame on you for having a bird feeder,’" she said.

"I understand it’s a balance, I understand we don’t want to leave a vacuum where bigger or larger predators can move in, but I do think this is a public safety issue," Hadley continued. "Our community is asking us to act, and blaming the victim is not enough for me."

Coyote Education Campaign Continues

Since the city began hearing increased complaints about coyotes, city staff has taken action in a number of areas, reported George Gabriel, assistant to the city manager. 

City staff has held a meeting involving multiple related departments, reached out to local city and government partners, compiled data relating to coyote sightings, and conducted a patrol of local "hot spots" with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Gabriel. 

Additionally, the city is looking into installing game cameras, he said.

The city is also continuing its efforts to educate the public on protecting their families and pets from coyotes. 

Importantly, residents are urged not to approach, contact, feed, or attempt to capture the coyotes.

The following safeguards are recommended to protect families and pets from coyotes as well as all wildlife that may potentially be in the area:

  • Do not leave small children or pets outside unattended.
  • If followed by a coyote, make loud noises. If this fails, throw rocks in the animal’s direction.
  • If a coyote attacks a person, immediately call 911.
  • Put garbage in tightly closed containers that cannot be tipped over.
  • Remove sources of water, especially in dry climates.
  • Bring pets in at night, and do not leave pet food outside.
  • Avoid using bird feeders as they attract rodents and other coyote prey.
  • Provide secure enclosures for rabbits or other outdoor pets.
  • Pick up fallen fruit, and cover compost piles.

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