Photos by Jason Ruiz.
While Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) drafts a new coyote management plan, the city held the first educational workshop at the El Dorado Park Nature Center on how to deal with urban coyotes since an emotional city council session earlier this month, which pitted neighbor against neighbor over the topic of catch and/or kill versus coexistence.
The standing-room-only crowd inside the nature center was notably less divisive than the one that stated their case before the city council on August 11.
Despite plans made by members of a local “coyote watch” Facebook group to disrupt and shutdown the event—according to a member of the private group, who leaked the conversation to the Post—the presentation went off without a hitch.
Ted Stevens, ACS manager, and founder and president of the non-profit Wildlife Emergency Services Rebecca Dmytryk were on hand to lead the discussion that focused on living with urban coyotes and peaceful measures that could be taken to lessen their presence in Long Beach communities.
Dmytryk, who was present at the council meeting, volunteered her time for the series of meetings at El Dorado Park.
“Some people say that the coyote doesn’t belong in the city,” Dmytryk said. “And the city is something that we’ve actually created. They’re a part of this urban landscape and they always will be here. What we can do though is reduce their presence.”
Reducing their presence through “hazing”—a process of instilling fear in coyotes through the use of loud noises, waving and/or throwing objects and other measures—as well as preventative measures to discourage coyote-human interaction dominated Dmytryk’s presentation.
Keeping pets inside and sources of food like trashcans, pet food and bird feeders secured were steps that could lessen the chances of a coyote finding a yard desirable.
Dmytryk also advised that retrofitting backyards with devices like “coyote rollers”—extensions on the outside of fences similar to a paper towel dispenser that makes it difficult for animals to scale fences—and pet enclosures could also work to keep pets inside yards and coyotes out of them.
In addition, Dmytryk said it's also important to audit your home or neighborhood to figure out what could've drawn the animals there in the first place. Because coyotes don't view humans as prey, but more as an indicator of where a food source could be, it's important to make sure those food sources don't exist, Dmytrk said.
Dmytryk’s hazing techniques included a variety of homemade devices like a stick with reflective tape on the end that, if waved, could scare off a coyote, which she noted are generally small animals, weighing roughly 20-30 pounds and "are mostly fluff." An empty aluminum can with coins inside could double as a convenient noise-maker or a weapon in the case of a more aggressive coyote encounter as well, she said.
“One thing you don’t want to do is corner an animal,” Dmytryk said. “You don’t want to corner a coyote, but if it has free range, absolutely, take this and throw it at them and don’t stop until it turns around.”
When pressed by a member of the audience inside the packed nature center on when lethal force was allowed to be taken, Dmytryk said that if a life or death situation for a pet or a person is unfolding, all things go. However, she said any extreme force used as a hazing technique is only to be carried out by county or state officials.
Stevens is no stranger to workshops and educational outreach efforts like these. He said that over the past three years he’s been present at about 50 such meetings all across the city, whether it be the Eastside near El Dorado Park or in North Long Beach closer to the border of Compton.
Over the next few weeks, Stevens will meet with advocates on both sides of the line and hopes to come to a utilitarian solution. Whether that includes a trap and/or kill program has yet to be decided.
Education, he said, will be key regardless of what the city eventually ends up writing into its coyote management plan.
“I’d say right now everything is being considered, everything is on the table,” Stevens said, noting he was meeting with individuals who had varied opinions. “We’re looking at all the different options and we’ll be looking at what other cities are doing and we’ll take all that into consideration.”
The exact threshold that would need to be met for the city to start euthanizing coyotes is unclear, but Stevens said they would like to come to some kind of “effective but reasonable" solution before their hand is potentially forced by an attack on a human. Satisfying all camps involved in the coyote debate has put a lot of pressure on the department, according to Stevens, and he knows the eventual resolution probably won't please everyone.
The idea that eliminating the coyotes altogether, either by trapping and releasing or by hazing was addressed by both Stevens and Dmytryk. Pushing a pack out of the city, one that could be potentially protecting its turf from a rival pack in another city could merely open the door for a larger presence of coyotes to replace them.
However, those brief reprieves could also be dangerous if residents let their guards down, Stevens said.
“Even if I had a magic wand and trapped all the coyotes tomorrow I can’t say when they’ll come back,” Stevens said.
Both were clear that the solution may not lie in the removal of the animal from the city bounds but more in the combined efforts of neighborhoods to demonstrate through hazing and housekeeping practices that coyotes are not welcome. Dmytryk hopes that reinforcing this notion could lead to a day when coyotes scatter at the sight of humans, and hopefully residents wont have to write their council members about being stalked by wildlife.
Issues that lay more on the city’s side of addressing the issue, like overflowing trashcans at parks and brush around freeway entrances and exits—alleged to house coyote dens by one member of the audience—are in the process of being addressed Stevens said. But limited resources and a lack of followthrough by CalTrans which is in charge of the freeway ramps have slowed progress on both fronts.
Getting a community to come together and be on the same page to create a sense of fear for the coyotes could be a tall order, according to some attendees. The uniformity needed will take coordination, dedication and education, something multiple attendees said is lacking in the affected communities.
“We live in neighborhoods and neighborhoods are always going to be inconsistent,” said a woman in the crowd who opted not to disclose her name. “There’s always going to be a situation where you do have someone who’s elderly, can’t do the hazing, unable to go ahead and trim the bushes or whatever that is. Maybe that’s why they’re coming into the neighborhood. But us being able to completely eliminate the resources may not be a possibility.”
A second meeting is scheduled for Friday August 28 at the El Dorado Park Community Center at 6:30pm.