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Commentary: Protecting your pets as coyotes flood neighborhoods

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If you live in or around Long Beach, like me, you may have noticed a sad plethora of “missing pet” posters attached to neighborhood telephone poles. People may ask where all these pets have disappeared to, and the sad reality is that a portion of them have fallen victim to the many coyotes currently present in local communities.

I’ve unfortunately lost two cats myself to coyotes. However, I do not hold a grudge against coyotes. Many of their behaviors that we find problematic happen because of human interference in their environment. While we don’t want them here, they also don’t want to be here. But they won’t be leaving anytime soon, so I think that it is important that people are aware of the small- and large-scale measures that can be taken to prevent further losses of domestic animals to coyotes.

Wikimedia Commons
As coyotes become more common in populated areas, residents should be more cautious with their pets.

Coyotes have always been abundant in Southern California and are native to the area. The amount of natural habitat available for coyotes to freely roam and hunt in has been drastically affected in recent years. Because of increased habitat loss due to land development, the frequency of interaction between coyotes and humans has increased. As a result, some dangers, such as pets being attacked, have been occurring more due to humans and coyotes experiencing heightened contact. In their natural state, coyotes can be beneficial to humans because they eat vermin like rats. The dangers coyotes present can be mitigated by small- and large-scale changes in human behavior.

These newly displaced coyotes often find themselves living in residential areas after being pushed out of their homes by habitat loss. Their attempt to adapt to their new environment leads to problems for the coyotes, as well as the people and pets in that area. When faced with human expansion, coyotes attempt to learn how to survive in suburban and urban areas. This also means modifying their diets to include household pets.

Obviously, this current situation is not ideal for humans, pets or coyotes. It is a losing situation for all sides. This can be seen in the struggles between farmers and pet owners and predatory coyotes who are forced to live off pets or livestock. It is advantageous to all groups involved if coyotes are given their own space in the wild. When they are forced to come to our communities, they present a variety of hazards. They can carry pathogens, such as rabies, or cause property damage. This will continue to happen if land development for building and farming goes unchecked.

While coyotes and humans are still forced to coexist, there are certain steps pet owners can take to protect their animals. Small and affordable changes in home and pet care can help avoid attracting coyotes to your residence, even if they are prevalent in your community. If you have pets, you should avoid feeding them outdoors or leaving their pet food outside of your house, as this can attract hungry coyotes. Your animals are also more at risk if they are outside unsupervised for extended periods of time. Even if you don’t have pets, it is advised that you tightly tie and secure all garbage outside of your house, as easily-accessible trash will cause coyotes to rummage through it for food. If you do see a coyote near your property, one way to drive them away is with loud noise. Coyotes can sometimes be frightened away by sounds, such as banging pots or pans together and shouting.

However, these small steps that can be taken by individual pet owners are just temporary Band-Aids for an ongoing problem. Coyotes are still losing their natural habitat at an alarming rate. Unless this urban development slows down significantly, coyotes will continue to seek refuge in suburbia.

Protecting pets from coyotes is a complex problem with no simple solutions. If individuals and communities work together, they can greatly increase the safety of people’s pets and property.

7 Comments

7 Responses to “Commentary: Protecting your pets as coyotes flood neighborhoods”

  1. Glenn Draper on February 15th, 2019 12:22 pm

    There is plenty of space for people to live in our urban areas and for coyotes to live in their wild spaces. According to a UC Davis study, only 5% of California is urbanized (built up). Another 3% is covered by reservoirs. This leaves 92% of the state covered by farms, forests, desert, etc. There is plenty of open land to support all the coyotes without them needing to live in the city with us.

  2. Theresa Hew on February 15th, 2019 12:56 pm

    Another popular argument implies mans urban sprawl is taking away coyote habitat.
    Historically, human encroachment on wildlife habitat and loss of habitat have negatively impacted many wildlife species, but the coyotes aren’t one of them. Coyotes have benefited from human alterations to the landscape. While historically we’ve displaced coyotes in some places where cities and towns grew, at the same time coyotes have been spreading across the continent, perhaps more successfully than any other mammal except humans.
    The last U.S. census in 2010 shows that CA is still over 80% open land. Plenty of habitat for the coyote to thrive.
    In the past 20 years, a dramatic reversal of this encroachment process has occurred: coyotes are actually encroaching on our habitat, and they are doing so at an unprecedented rate. In metropolitan areas, predominately human habitat, we have created safe, superior habitat for them. They aren’t forced to live among us – they choose to live among us. Therefore, we (i.e., property owners, city administrators, wildlife professionals) should be dictating where and how coyotes live, not vice versa.

    At some point, we need to draw a line on the asphalt and warn coyotes that they are now entering “people country”

  3. Steven on February 15th, 2019 2:38 pm

    The author based the bulk of her argument off claiming the entire problem of urban coyotes can be traced to loss of habitat forcing coyotes to live in urban environments. There is no evidence to support this claim. The bulk of the US is considered mostly undeveloped. Places like New Jersey, DC Connecticut and Rhode Island come in at 25% developed and higher. The overall lower 48 are 5.8% developed. California was estimated to be 6.8% developed.

    Coyote are not forced to live in urban environments, they choose to make urban environments their home. Study after study show generations of coyotes being born and raised in urban environments.

    I will have to agree “the frequency of interaction between coyotes and humans has increased.” Did she stop to think coyotes generally stake out their own territories. A coyote running into the average dog will consider them like they do other canid species; either prey or competition for resources. This is what is driving the conflict, the natural instincts that have served coyotes for millenia, not a modification of the landscape.

    The author is also incorrect in her assumption that coyotes control rats in their natural environment. Rats are considered a commensal rodent. That is a rodent that lives along side man. Recent observations by biologist Niamh Quinn would also seem to be at odds with the authors assumptions. “Another surprise: Remarkably few of the coyotes had eaten roof rats, a ubiquitous rodent that can weigh up to a pound. The researchers theorize that may be because roof rats are fast, superb climbers.” (Los Angeles Times, How do coyotes thrive in urban Southern California? The answer is not for the weak-stomached)

    The suggestions to limit food sources and asking pet owners to carefully watch their pets to limit negative interaction is reasonable and responsible, the claims that “Coyotes are still losing their natural habitat at an alarming rate” are completely exaggerated and false.

    Coyotes are seeking refuge in suburbia because we are providing them safe and superior habitat.

  4. Aurelio Mattucci on February 15th, 2019 5:18 pm

    The coyote population needs to be culled. The Coyotes are terrorizing our neighborhoods and have made all if us prisoners confined to our home. We can’t even let our pets out in our own backyards.
    #EvictCoyotes #WearRed

  5. SJ Harrison on February 15th, 2019 9:40 pm

    I certainly disagree with this opinion piece. Coyotes have not been displaced, or forced to live among humans; rather they are born, raised and taught to hunt right in our neighborhoods. California has some densely populated cities to be sure, however much of California remains largely undeveloped. Agriculture is an important part of California economy and many farms- large and small- have been in existence for many decades- farms have not displaced coyotes, rather coyotes have often caused great financial damages in terms of loss of livestock. Time to write a piece based in actual data.

  6. sally mason on February 18th, 2019 12:29 am

    There were NO coyotes in the South Bay in the 60’s 70’s 80’s or 90’s. Please quit spreading these lies. There was an occasional report of a coyote spotted in the Santa Monica Mountains at that time, but it was unusual. Coyotes have since invaded the So Bay, and pet owners are being held hostage, with no help from agencies or cities. They must be trapped and euthanized on a grand and continued scale until residents can resume their normal lives.

  7. Bill on February 18th, 2019 8:16 am

    Your opinion article is cute but inaccurate. Coyotes are one of the few species that enjoy the full benefits of a symbiotic relationship with humans. Given the level of tolerance that you advocate, they will keep proliferating in urban settings, which is not where they belong. There populations have overrun the wild areas in California as well. They need to be held in check. Lastly, please see organizations like Project coyote for what they are, another money maker that uses the fury “cuteness” of the coyote as a poster child to bleed society, and the government of funds through the perpetuation of ridiculous laws and stupid causes.
    The Native American Indians said that when the last man dies, the coyote will be there to gnaw on his bones. Think about that.

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Commentary: Protecting your pets as coyotes flood neighborhoods