Has Nature Made Its Statement? Long Beach Community Seminars Will Address the Urban Coyote

Drought, overbuilding on habitat of both predator and prey, loss of fear of humans and an accompanying grazing table of easy pickings—these are reasons given for the apparent greater numbers of coyotes appearing in neighborhoods in Long Beach, as well as across the country.

Local residents are reporting coyote sightings or attacks on pets in various parts of the city, including Bixby Knolls, California Heights, Lakewood Village and Belmont Heights. Most of the people interviewed expressed concern, not just for their pets, but also for the coyotes themselves, saying that the increased number of coyote sightings is a result of human encroachment on territory. Coyotes, said one resident, are effective controllers of the rodent population; others said that humans need to take responsibility for protecting their pets and learning to coexist with the animals.

“After the Seal Beach fiasco, we humans can learn to not leave out food, to make noise and discourage the coyotes,” Diane Paull said. “Theoretically, we learned from Seal Beach that if we kill them, they will just have larger litters to make up for the loss. I think we can make wiser decisions than repeating a plan that was not effective regardless of one’s emotions about the issue.”

Paull was referring to the trapping and euthanizing project earlier this year in Seal Beach that resulted in a small number of coyotes being gassed before the practice was determined to be inhumane and not effective, and was stopped. Papers from Scientific American, Cal State Poly and UC Davis, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) point to the ineffectiveness of trapping and euthanasia as a long-term solution for controlling coyote population, although targeting problem coyotes was deemed necessary.

“We do have a coyote problem, and what we should have learned from the Seal Beach problem was that they didn’t act soon enough,” Ellen Kuhnert said. “The city of Long Beach needs to act quickly, or worse things than what we have seen are going to happen. Other cities that didn’t manage the problem quickly have had children attacked and pets snatched out of people’s arms as they were in their yards. The attacks are getting more and more brazen, and regular sightings during the daylight are common. So what is the city waiting for? Someone to get hurt or attacked, perhaps a small child or and elderly resident walking their small dog in the morning?”

Kuhnert denigrated the idea of the city holding workshops that teach residents to live with urban coyotes but is hopeful about management plan for them. “Nobody is saying we should kill them, but we do need to manage the problem quickly before it gets worse,” she said.

At an emotionally charged Long Beach City Council meeting on April 11, residents also expressed fear, anger and frustration on every side. Several attendees expressed a desire for humane treatment of and education about urban wildlife; others expressed skepticism about the facts and details about coyote reproduction and scoffed at the idea of coexistence with wildlife. All, however, had an interest in a Coyote Mitigation Plan that councilmembers Daryl Supernaw (Fourth District), Stacy Mungo (Fifth District) and Roberto Uranga (Seventh District) were recommending. The plan comprised removing food sources by covering trash cans, taking in pet food, gathering up ripe fruit from trees, and implementing a quicker pickup of dead animals by ACS; cleanout of reported coyote dens; and organizing volunteer hazing groups. (Click the links to read two previous articles on the mitigation plan and the council meeting.)

Long Beach Animal Care Services’ (ACS) present Coyote Management Plan contains guidelines for enforcement of laws that regulate feeding wildlife, a four-tiered alert system ranging from report sighting to lethal removal of coyotes and public education.

“I felt the coyote management plan was much too vague on education and outreach,” Mungo said. “Neighbors want to feel and be safe. We need accurate reporting of encounters to be able to best address coyote presence. Each encounter is an opportunity, and neighbors can be part of the solution. No one approach will be enough—we need a comprehensive approach that includes education.”

In this light, ACS will present a community seminar, “Living with Urban Coyotes,” which addresses the education component of both the management plan and the proposed mitigation plan. The sessions will be held on Thursday, August 27, at the El Dorado Nature Center, 7550 East Spring Street, and on Friday, August 29, at the El Dorado Park Community Center, 2800 North Studebaker Road. Both will take place from 6:30PM–8:30PM.

Wildlife rehabilitator Rebecca Dmytryk, who voluntarily offered her services to ACS, will be the presenter. Dmytryk is the president and CEO of Wildlife Emergency Services, an all-volunteer nonprofit located in Monterey County that assists with wild animals in distress. She has a lengthy resume of her work and experience with wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and has served on several wildlife teams and committees, notably the California Department of Fish and Wildlife South Coast Region Wildlife Rehabilitation Committee, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relocation team, and the International Bird Rescue Oiled Wildlife Response Team, the latter from 1993 to 2011. She also authored Wildlife Search and Rescue: A Guide for First Responders, and owns and manages a pest-control business, Humane Wildlife Control. The service utilizes removal and prevention methods as opposed to trapping and euthanizing to deal with wildlife getting to close to home.

“I came down [for the city council meeting] because I wanted to lend my voice and expertise for alternatives [to trapping and killing],” Dmytryk said. “I’ll talk about the natural history of the coyote, their behavior, and hopefully dispel myths. Then, I’ll demonstrate various and proper hazing levels and tools of the trade and ways that people can keep their pets safe and feel safe.”

Dmytryk had the opportunity for practical use of these tools the morning after the council meeting. Before heading down to Long Beach, she was contacted by a resident of the northeast Long Beach neighborhood of Lakewood Village, who told Dmytryk that coyotes were roaming in the area and that her dog had been attacked. On her blogpost, she recounted her visit to the area and the several successful contacts with residents. She also discovered a den under someone’s house where the probable animals in question were nesting. Dmytryk equipped the den with a one-way door that allowed the coyotes exit but no reentrance. This den cleanup is an example of one of the conditions that the proposed mitigation project included.

This Lakewood Village coyote den has been effectively served with an unlawful detainer.

Dmytryk neither doubts the increased presence of the coyotes nor dismisses the fear of residents who live in areas where more numerous coyote sightings and attacks have occurred. She said that she’ll offer advice to anyone concerned about securing their yard and will look at the perimeter to assess barrier placement.

“I’m willing to do some consulting for free,” Dmytryk said. “If someone can’t afford it and they have a serious problem, fencing can be provided free of charge.” Wildlife Emergency Services has established Coyote Challenge to address the issue of financial need for coyote management. Information can be accessed through this link.

Dmytryk also created Coyote Challenge to respond to claims that lethal control is the only way to tackle any perceived or actual threat from coyotes. Dmytryk acknowledges that she “faces a tough crowd” because of an increased coyote presence and resulting fear. This does present a tough challenge, which Bluff Park resident Kristina Cahill concisely summed up.

“I have to say it’s a very hard decision,” Cahill said. “On the one hand, they don’t deserve to be killed, and other communities have learned to live with them. On the other hand, some people can’t even use their backyards anymore, and they fear for their children and pets—it’s gotten that bad in the 5th district. There are strong pros and cons on both sides.”

When interviewed, Diana Paull also stated that humans erroneously think that “they’re going to win with Mother Nature,” which brings up the question of how far past the turning point human beings have cheesed off the Matriarch. The urban coyote probably can’t even be called a bellwether by now, but it certainly may be seen as an indicator of how humanity has made its bed. Hopefully, Dmytryk’s sessions and other attempts to educate will help straighten the sheets some and deal with the pokey mattress springs.

“In nature nothing exists alone.”
~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”
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