Since baited snare traps were set in Laguna Beach last month, six coyotes have been captured and killed and sightings have dropped markedly, the city’s animal control supervisor said.
The controversial trapping plan will be suspended this week because animal control officers believe the aggressive animals that have invaded yards and even homes hunting pets as prey have been eliminated, supervisor Jim Beres said Tuesday, Jan. 12.
That same day, the City Council voted 4-1, with Mayor Steve Dicterow dissenting, to authorize a controversial $30,000 contract for trapping coyotes year-round. Beres said the service would be used “as needed.”
The contract was awarded to Critter Busters, based in Santa Clarita, which specializes in rodent and pest control and is state-licensed to trap larger animals, including coyotes.
In response to the decision, Wildlife Emergency Services, of Moss Landing, Calif., on Wednesday launched a petition asking the city to adopt “a more civilized coyote management plan.” The non-profit’s co-founder, Rebecca Dmytryk, told the Indy she made a bid for the city’s services.
She wasn’t alone in criticizing the city’s approach to coyote management during the hearing. Several people advocated the use of less lethal methods to manage wildlife, while others –including Council member Kelly Boyd and artist Scott Moore — described a disturbing change in fearless behavior among coyotes inhabiting neighborhoods in the last year and supported the city’s approach to deterrence.
Since July, the city has received reports of 83 coyote sightings or attacks on pets, police Chief Laura Farinella told council members. She outlined a range of measures undertaken to discourage coyote intrusions, which include signs in some areas to safeguard pets and educating residents about closing their doors and abstaining from leaving pet food outside.
In addition, Farinella authorized arming animal control officers with paint ball guns, rigged to shoot water pellets, to stun the animals. The department is also mapping their movements and adopting best practices used by other cities experiencing a similar problem, she said.
Despite the range of measures, the department continued to receive calls and turned to trapping “as a last resort,” she said, noting that a coyote bit a child in Irvine.
Beres declined to say how many traps have been set.
In the most dramatic encounter reported locally, Marty Fischer, of Oak Street, recounted her experience last November. “I’m scared to death. I saw a coyote come into my bedroom, through a door, grab my dog that was trying to protect a little person,” said Fischer, referring to a grandchild. “What if it wasn’t my small dog? What if it was a six-day-old baby?” asked Fischer. She conceded she erred by leaving a door open, but expressed support for what she described as the city’s “balanced” coyote deterrence plan.
Resident Judie Mancuso took an opposing view. “It is arrogant to think you can sanitize your environment by killing,” she said. Mancuso described protecting her pets by removing brush and a bird feeder to make her home less enticing to coyotes. Off-leash dogs that bite people are a bigger problem in town than coyotes, which haven’t harmed anyone in Laguna, she pointed out.
Carey Strombotne, a representative of the Laguna Canyon Conservancy, cited the town’s long-standing support for protecting wildlife habitat. Trapping “goes against what Laguna stands for,” she said.
“The city’s plan is inhumane and inefficient,” added Irene Bowie, a South Laguna resident and volunteer with Project Coyote. She urged the city to adopt an alternate approach, citing Project Coyote’s practices that involve coyote hazing and community education that she claims eradicated the problem in the cities of Calabasas and Davis.
In a later interview, Bowie expressed disappointment none of the council members asked for a discussion of scientific research on the subject. Scientists say trapping alone is ineffective, Bowie said. Reducing the coyote population, will lead to bigger litters, she said.
Moore, a 37-year Bluebird Canyon resident, described for the first time seeing coyotes near his home during daylight hours. “Things changed this year completely,” he said.
Both Boyd and Dicterow also described encounters with coyotes. “There is a problem in Laguna,” Boyd said. “We have to take the next step.”
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