“It was horrible, especially the way it happened,” said Rianne, her sad brown eyes staring into the distance.
Weeks earlier, her small terrier mix had been let out of the house by her roommate and had gone missing. A janitor at a nearby elementary school found the little dog’s mauled body. Another pet fallen prey to a coyote.
The heat, the drought and the loss of wilderness are forcing coyotes closer to urban areas and suburban backyards for food and water. We’re giving tips for how you can protect yourself or your dog if you see a coyote while out walking.
Coyotes in Los Angeles County
Coyotes, which can weigh up to 40 pounds, feed on rodents, small mammals and insects. They will scavenge for fruit, vegetable material and edible trash. Drawn to a back yard by fallen fruit, an open garbage can, a compost pile or water in a pet’s bowl, a coyote doesn’t have to do much thinking to prey on the pet as well.
Although the Los Angeles Animal Services doesn’t keep track of coyote sitings or attacks on pets, some autonomous cities, such as Torrance, do. There, during the first half of 2016, officials reported nearly 150 coyote sightings and an estimated 60 animals deaths due to coyotes, including 37 cats and seven dogs.
Coyotes make 11 distinct sounds and often sound like many more are present than actually are.
While it’s easy to see only the worst about coyotes, they play an important role in the balance of nature by eating rodents and small predatory mammals. They remove carrion in their territories. They also scatter plants seeds in their scat; in fact, saguaro cactus, once endangered, is now starting to make a comeback thanks to coyotes.
Tips for protecting your pets from coyotes
So you’re out with your dog at dusk and see a lone coyote trotting down the street, what should you do? Here are some tips:
- Use a six-foot, fixed leash when you’re outdoors with your dog.
- Avoid areas where coyotes have been seen.
- Avoid walking at sunrise or sunset when coyotes are more active.
- Stay away from areas with thick shrubbery and poor visibility.
- Carry a noise-maker — a whistle or a can full of coins, for example.
If you do see a coyote:
- Pull your dog close (or pick up small dogs).
- Stand tall and be assertive. Maintain eye contact. Coyotes are instinctively wary of humans.
- Do not run. This might arouse the coyote’s prey drive and encourage him to chase you.
- Haze the coyote or try to scare it. This is the opposite of what we’re told to do with aggressive dogs. Yell; stomp your feet; wave your arms; shake a sweater, jacket or branch at it; use a noise maker; flash a flashlight on and off; throw stones, tennis balls or sticks on the ground near the coyote.
- Watch the coyote as it moves away to make sure that it keeps moving. If it pauses or freezes, keep hazing it.
If you have property, you can discourage coyote visits by:
- Keeping pets indoors.
- Never leaving young children unattended in a yard.
- Not leaving pet food or water bowls outside.
- Trimming fruit trees so coyotes can’t reach the fruit and keeping fallen fruit picked up.
- Fully enclosing compost piles.
- Keeping trash in metal cans with tight lids. Don’t set out trash cans before pick-up day.
- Keeping shrubs around buildings and property lines well trimmed above the ground so there’s no hiding spaces for a coyote.
- Close off crawl spaces under houses, porches, garages, decks and sheds.
- Clean barbecue grills after use and store them in a garage or shed where a coyote can’t get to them.
- Don’t feed wildlife. The rodents and small mammals you plump up make tasty treats for hungry coyotes.
Some types of fences can keep coyotes off your property, but they must be at least six-feet tall and planted 12 to 18 inches below ground in a rock-lined trench. Additionally, the top needs to be bent at a 45-degree angle to prevent a coyote from climbing or jumping over it. Some coyote-proof fences use a roller to keep the coyote from getting a foot hold.