Laguna Targets Pregnant Coyotes

Coyotes in nearby wilderness parks. Photo by Allan Schoenherr
Coyotes in nearby wilderness parks. Photo by Allan Schoenherr

Laguna Beach will intensify its offensive against aggressive coyotes by killing pregnant ones snared in rope traps beginning later this winter, according to a plan the police department will present to the City Council in January.

The juvenile pups who avoided the traps are on the hit list for the fall, according to Jim Beres, civilian supervisor in charge of animal services. Beres delineated the plan this week. The pups are weaned then and on their own so that male coyotes will mate again with the mother, he explained.

“They’re not an endangered species,” Beres said, in defending the proposed killing plan he describes as proactive “enhanced trapping.”

“We’ve been reactive up until now to complaints from residents,” he said. With the unusual occurrence of a coyote coming into an open home last month and taking one of three Chihuahuas, a more intensive approach of “population management” is needed, he said. Any coyote caught in a trap in town, pregnant or not, Beres said, will be euthanized. “Our intent is to target pregnant female coyotes,” he said.

A “habituated” animal no longer fearful of people is unusual, he conceded, saying there is only one problem coyote in town, in the Oak Street area.

Killing coyotes is not the answer to a complex issue, said Dick Newell, a wild-animal tracker who has monitored wildlife for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy for the past 20 years.

“For us to assume that the behavior of all coyotes is the same is ridiculous. It’s like saying all humans behave the same,” said Newell, who runs OC Trackers, a nonprofit wildlife tracking group.

Longtime resident Mona Roberts at play on her deck with her two surviving dogs; a coyote snatched pet. another Photo by Jody Tiongco
Longtime resident Mona Roberts at play on her deck with her two surviving dogs; a coyote snatched another. Photo by Jody Tiongco

Just because coyotes are not an endangered species is no license to kill them, he said. A coyote is an important element to maintaining balance in the native habitat, he explained, reducing burrowing gophers and squirrels that could demolish a hillside if left unchecked. “There’s a niche for him and he’s doing a great job for us.”

At a City Council meeting earlier this month, council members called for stronger measures. “I want to take the fight to them. We need to be aggressive about this; people are afraid,” said councilman Robert Zur Schmiede.

“We’re just lucky we haven’t lost a child yet,” councilwoman Toni Iseman commented.

“Nobody in Laguna Beach, no man, woman, adult or child has ever been attacked by a coyote,” Beres said. Statistically, dogs are a worse threat to public safety in Laguna than coyotes. “You’re much more likely to be injured by a pet dog in this town than by a coyote,” he said. “We have dozens of dog bites every year and we’ve had kids mauled by pit bulls and end up going to the hospital.”

So far, five adult male coyotes have been trapped and killed. The current number of reported coyote sightings and pet attacks has not yet been compiled, Beres said.

Removing the animals from one neighborhood doesn’t solve the problem, according to Newell. “Coyotes are going to come in from the wild to fill up that vacuum,” he said.

Beres agrees. “That’s why eradication is not the answer.”

The long-term answer, Beres and Newell concur, is for people to voluntarily change their behavior because they, unlike coyotes, can.

Start reducing the food source, they say, and the number of wild animals in town will also diminish. There are 7,000 licensed dogs alone in Laguna, Beres said, so keeping small dogs and cats, easy prey for coyotes, inside at night is the first step. Food and water dishes also need to come in, he said, adding that even bird seed will attract coyotes. Coyotes have a keen sense of smell, sight and sound, and can follow any food source, said Newell.

Educating the public to learn to live with wild animals is part of the city’s coyote-management tools. But getting people to change their behavior is harder to implement than a plan to euthanize coyotes, Beres said. “Getting all the human beings in town to reduce all potential sources of food for coyotes is not realistic,” he said.

Newell disagrees.

“We just need to clean up our act,” he said. “There is no animal out in nature that will go anywhere for any extended period of time if there’s not an abundance of food. If he came back and back and back to that same backyard and didn’t get any food, he’d go someplace else. We’d do the same thing.”

Newell said he’s spent years trying to educate people to work with wildlife. Some of them, he says, “just want to kill that coyote.”

The stepped-up plan calls for an additional $10,000 in funding. The city employs Animal Pest Management Services in Chino and Laguna Hills, and its trapper, Jimmy Risso, at $3,000 for 10 days of trapping, said Beres, who said the city’s animal services officers take Newell’s tracking course.

A blanket of traps will be set up in specific problem areas, including Oak Street, where sightings continue to occur. But the traps are not expected to eliminate coyotes coming into town. “You can’t trap or kill your way out of a coyote problem,” Beres said.



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  1. I am disappointed in Laguna Beach – you are better than that. This plan sounds like something a neighboring city would come up with. Please listen to the expert and address the issue as humanely and intelligently as we can. Like I said Laguna Beach is much better than resorting to killing animals that belong here as much as we do.

  2. The argument that coyotes are not endangered and therefore OK to kill is a specious one. Our pets are not endangered either, does it make it OK for them to be eaten?
    We must come up with a smarter solution. Why not get the expert involved?
    Have we not learned from history that whenever humans try to intervene with nature we end up with a whole host of unintended consequences.

  3. First Newell says,”We just need to clean up our act,” then he turns around and says, “he’s spent years trying to educate people to work with wildlife”. Which means that for years “Just cleaning up our act” has NOT worked!

    This is like the communities that argue in favor of “abstinence only” in regards to sexual education. Look at a demographics map, those are also the SAME states with the highest incidences of teen pregnancy and HIV infections.

    How about a little common sense! Coyotes have no other natural predators in this area save man. And we have approached that roll hugs and pats on the head. Without an Apex Predator to keep the coyotes in check overpopulation is occurring, and starvation and unchecked disease control will be the next acts in this drama. Nature abhors a vacuum and if we are not going to be THE Apex Predator then the coyotes will fill that roll. And how do we like the job we are doing so far?

    Newell and his ilk are over reacting. We have been trying to eradicate coyotes for over 100 years and look where we are population wise. The Laguna Beach City Counsels decision to trap and kill a few pregnant females is no different that any other predator killing a few pregnant females. It is not going to off set the balance, coyotes are not going to go extinct, the world will not stop spinning on its access. We will wake up tomorrow and the world will be just the same… minus a handful of coyotes.

  4. Here we go again,

    Picking On animals that we have adopted from our purchase of the Green Belt. For once can we stop fear mongering helpless animals.
    What is next? Raccoons ? Skunks? We have an opportunity here to learn from one of our oldest inhabitants . Maybe we should start a Coyote adoption program, because the Coyote has long since started adopting your pet dogs for their gene pool. Dogs in general can survive without human hinderance. But I’m not sure if they can survive our assistance. What about the California Red Fox?
    They were once legitimate competition for the Coyote, but we killed them off. We should all, worry more about a pack of ignorant humans than all the Coyotes in Orange County. What would happen if from our climate change that another species of animal was introduced like the Coati or the Spider Monkey or another Exotic animal that was a legitimate threat to the ecosystem maybe decimate the bird population. Why would anyone even want a Laguna Green Belt then? The Legacy that we have bought to pass on to our Children and future Generations, we owe them the consideration, if not just the animals themselves.

  5. Certainly reducing the coyote population in the area will serve to have fewer coyotes in inhabited areas. It is simply math. If all residents of the area got rid of 100% of their small dogs and cats, kept all their garbage and food items out of reach, coyotes would still come to the area. Inhabited areas are an island for rabbits, squirrels, mice, rats, etc. As long as those wildlife species gravitate to housing areas, coyotes will follow. Simply a fact.

  6. How about trap and relocate further away. This is just wrong. My home backs the open space, where coyotes have been seen and heard. I WATCH my small dogs when they are in the backyard then bring them in AND I keep my slider closed.

  7. No one loves animals more than we do — pets and otherwise. And yes, the coyote has a place in this habitat too.
    However, Mr. Newell, the reported expert opposed to proactive coyote trapping, is not on top of the facts. Laguna Beach is infested with a growing population of dangerous coyotes with no natural predators to keep it in check.
    These “third generation coyotes” were born in Laguna Beach and have learned to hunt and kill our pets in our yards and in some cases in our homes. It is only a matter of time before a small child is hurt or worse.
    The proactive trapping proposal that has been developed by the City working with its coyote expert seeks to manage rather than eradicate the coyote population with the goal of returning some semblance of balance to this habitat. Societies have done this kind of animal husbandry for centuries, which actually strengthens the habitat and all animal populations within it.
    As a long time Laguna Beach resident who has seen plenty of coyotes over the years, typically on early morning runs, I have never seen a situation where so many aggressive coyotes now appear at all times of the day on our door steps, seemingly immune to traditional hazing techniques.
    This public safety problem needs to be managed and the City’s proposal is a sensible way to do it.

  8. Very disappointed our city leaders have caved to the vocal, fear-mongering few, and turned to a quick fix instead of a longterm solution. You would think that after decades of fighting to preserve our greenbelt wilderness that they would appreciate how important it is to maintain the complex balance of wildlife. They should listen to those who understand it, such as experts like Dick Newell (who has no agenda in this hyped controversy.)

  9. Top facts,

    Mountain Lion
    Coyote Bobcat
    Racoon Skunk
    Mule Deer Rabbit Rat Mouse Squirrel Vole Gofer

    These are not farm animals.

    Coyotes are seen more often at dusk and dawn.

    Coyotes generations are mixed with domesticated (pet) canines.
    Female Coyotes rule the pack and will not interbreed.
    Remove opportunities for (farming) outside sources of offspring.
    Coyotes will seek other territories .

    We are the primary threat and enablers of the Coyotes.
    They do not need us for food.
    We are in a drought that has brought most of the wild life in the area to our doorsteps. We have been told it is not a matter of if but when there is another wildfire in the Greenbelt area, this will throw the environment even further out of balance.

    Eventually I hope someone will step up to support wildlife management in the Laguna Greenbelt and give cause for funding and studies. The responsibility does not fully rest on the State of California.

    The Greenbelt needs solvency and management to continue.
    I think that is what the Coyotes are telling us.

  10. Honestly, I’ve watched the city trapper remove three coyotes from the canyons above my house this last week. The trapping works. We had a coyote stalking pets and I’ve even heard from one neighbor about a jogger being attacked. Since they started trapping it’s been quiet. I feel like I can enjoy my property again. I don’t let my pets out alone, but I shouldn’t have to fear walking them. Kudos to the city for stepping up. I’m glad our officials are listening to residents and not caving to outside pressure.

  11. Brilliant! They should trap and kill all the morons who came up with and support this idea instead… If you’re a transplant that moved to Laguna with your teacup chihuahua and now you want to kill the native inhabitants in THEIR HOME I have a suggestion for you. Pack up your yapping kick me dog and move back to New York or whatever lame ass city you came from. Stop trying to ruin Laguna Beach. We were fine without you before and will be better off without you when you leave. I’ll take the coyotes instead.

  12. trophic cascades

    Take one of the predators out of the food “web” and the species they control will multiply unchecked.

    This scenario can be played in multiple stages.
    We ourselves have interfered with the natural environment and by every right we have that choice to belong to and dominate our surroundings.
    We should also take into consideration how our own actions will effect our environment but carefully and consciously consider how our own actions affect us being part of it and except our consequence of choice.
    By action of condemnation regarding one form of life insignificant to another is a historic faux pas that for the sake of everything involved should not be repeated.

  13. Warning, Laguna. People in the rich hillside area of Glendora tried eliminating (shooting) coyotes. The resultant population explosion of RATS, mice, squirrels, ground squirrels and rabbits was a sight to behold. Warning, the rats will pull out your bushes and nest in your car or truck engine. They will nest in your air filter. They ate the wires of the ignition system in our Camry down so far, it destroyed the car, and it was junked. They have gotten into every car engine, eating wires and insulation. They die in the engine if you try to poison them. Neighbors used poison and wound up killing many birds. More birdseed for the squirrels. Who dig up the garden and live to dig holes under fence posts. The hillside fences are in danger of falling. The rabbits and squirrels love to eat flowers and landscapes. Did I mention gophers? Yes, coyotes will eat a cat or small dog. We have lost a couple. You keep them locked up indoors, only let them put with close supervision or in a safe fenced area. It works. We now have second generation coyotes living in the neighborhood. If we see them in the day, we yell at them or toss a rock. They run. My Big dogs will chase them. When I hear the coyotes sing at night, I’m grateful. We still have rat and squirrel problems in this million dollar neighborhood.

  14. Evidently the Laguna Beach City Counsel embraces ignorance and barbarism as a ‘solution’ to a self-induced ‘problem.’ The city of Chicago has been living with coyotes without the savage plan to eradicate wildlife. How is it that Laguna Beach, which has significantly less population cannot do the same? Oh right. It’s the money of the deep pocketed residents doing the speaking.

    Let’s play hypothetical, shall we? What happens when all the predators are gone for the comfort of the residents who apparently cannot be bothered with even attempting to live alongside wildlife instead of using their dollars to kill the wildlife they want gone? If you actually had any kind of education, you would know that coyotes eat skunks, rabbits, squirrels, rats, etc. If you kill all the coyotes, what will you then do with the inevitable overpopulation of its prey? Use rat poison en masse? Which will then arbitrarily kill anything including raptors AND your pets. Wake up, Laguna Beach. Your city really needs some educated leadership, not deep pocketed ignoramuses.

  15. If we begin killing coyotes …it will backfire.
    You will end up with a nightmare it does not work..believe me … I learned personally what the biologists all know all along ( and what the USDA’s [agricultural’s clandestine killing machine] “Wildlife Services” is well aware of )…. you will have a gazillian mice and rats and more accelerated coyote births ( guess how I as a resident of Castle Peak Estates found out about the gazillian of mice exploding into our homes 20 or more a day in the early 1980’s [ no not kidding!] after they got the permission to kill coyotes in El Escorpion Canyon and surrounding mountains to the gate of Bell canyon) ..turns out we learned coyotes eat for example close to 30 mice a day … Please share the information so that others can become informed just like those in Santa Monica Thousand Oaks Calabasas , Malibu and all the others that have been educated and now live in harmony with wildlife.

    And did I mention the coyotes that are not killed will offset all the killings by having an increase in litters.
    Remember to keep watch and keep small pets safe and not left alone outside….a coyote does not know a difference between your pet and other small prey ….he is just hungry.

    The sheer number of raptors, and predatory animals I see that the Wildlife Center has to try and save from “SECONDARY POISONING” is unconscionable.
    This only backfires as the deaths of all the owls, hawks, falcons, coyotes, fox, ringtails, skunks, etc. …yes and even cougars ….will be killed who eat the dying prey …allowing the rodent problem to be able to multiply and explode .

    And It should be understood that the only one reported coyote-caused fatality was ever recorded in the state, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, occurred in 1981

    Coyote attacks on people are extremely rare. There have been a small number of attacks on people in the U.S. and Canada, with most of the attacks involving small children under 5 years of age. Since 3 million children are bitten by dogs every year, your small child is millions of times more likely to get hurt by the family pet than by a coyote.

    Interestingly the amount of bites and fatalities caused to humans by dogs is very high.
    The most recent USA survey of dog bites conducted by CDC researchers concluded that in 2001, 2002 and 2003 there were 4.5 million American dog bite victims per year…and the yearly average for fatalities was 17 in the 1980s and 1990s; but in the past 6 years, the average has been 31 per year for human deaths by dogs.

  16. After reading these comments, I think its clear that the voices of a few angry people are louder than the rest of us, who understand that killing coyotes is NOT the answer. I hope our voices are loud enough to prevent this mistake from happening.

    I have always admired the cunning and clever Coyote. They are adaptable and amazing creatures, and they are important even in our urban areas. Science tells us that no matter how much control we as humans attempt, coyotes are here to stay. They have an amazing ability to increase their litter sizes to the area’s carrying capacity when the population is low. Therefore, coyote “control” efforts come out to be futile. And the captured coyotes lose their lives because of it. That doesn’t sound smart, now does it? To me that sounds foolish and cruel. Fun fact: Coyotes mate for life 🙂

    On top of that, until coyote population numbers rebound, the consequences of coyote control are a huge problem in itself with an excess number of mice, rats, & other rodents.

    The best we can do is keep our small pets inside and supervise them outside. Remove attractants from our homes. Haze coyotes when we see them to help them keep a healthy fear of people. Our best plan of attack is education and understanding. Let our voices be louder than the ones spreading false information, fear, and ignorance. Thanks everyone 🙂

  17. killing the coyotoes, will cause an explosion of rodents which will created a need for poison with will endanger pets and children and cause poltuion…. nice, Laguna beach! you idiots. I hve better places to spend my discretionary income…

  18. Honestly I say kill them skin them and use their hides for fur coats. I am sure if you provide your own fur to a coat maker your coat will cost half the price. Then while skiing in Vail, Aspen, or Jackson Hole it would be a great conversation topic about how YOU a Laguna Beach resident actually killed, the nuisance coyote and made a coat out of it. If you actually got good at killing and skinning them it would be a great way to help the environment, save pets and add a supplement income to help pay your mortgage.

  19. Thank you B Glover and others in support of allowing Nature to be. PS. Rats and Mice are far worse than Coyotes, we battled them for a year – We have LOADS of rats in town due to the restaurants, tourists and rats love our beautiful old trees to nest in.


  21. The path of least resistance always rules within mother nature. Water flows towards gravity,drought makes food sourcing a larger region,wind goes around blockage etc. The basics of this problem really does fall onto the humans which chose to settle deep into this greenbelt. We must educate all of Laguna civilians to keep their zones clear of odiferous foods that attract predators as well as rodents. One attracts the other of course.
    Perhaps the city should begin looking at problematic concerns which tend to house mice,rats,squirrels etc. such as dense low shrubs and brush or untrimmed trees which are nearest home properties. The further out the rodents remain, perhaps the further out the predators will as well.
    In the meantime… as others have mentioned firstly and keep your pets food and water sources indoors. Peak time coyote spotting hours should guide pet owners when to bring their pets indoors for safety.
    Lets look unto ourselves for the adjustments. I’d imagine the most aggressive of these canines has been caught up in the early entrapments. If you spot a coyote at this point near your homes….look at your own zones to what might draw such an animal nearby that you could eliminate or share thoughts with your neighbors…….if you’ve ever met them.


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