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The coyotes of Griffith Park

September 22, 2009 |  3:13 pm

Coyote

I'm no coyote hugger, but it's hard to avoid thinking that USDA trappers went too far by killing seven coyotes in Griffith Park.

There had been a couple of biting incidents, though not serious attacks. In one case, a coyote reportedly bit the toe of a man who was sleeping in the park. But the bites were weeks apart, and because neither was reported promptly, USDA staff had no way to take swabs to tell whether any of these coyotes were the aggressive animals. This much we know: At least five of them were not.

This follows Yorba Linda's decision to hire a trapper after coyotes were snatching some small pets from people's yards. The best way to prevent that sort of thing is to not leave small pets -- or food or water -- in the yard. Coyotes are among the most adaptable of animals. They'll eat just about anything, animal or vegetable. And when their numbers are reduced by hunting, the females give birth to bigger litters.

Shoot aggressive coyotes that attack or threaten people in the park? I have no problem, and some of the coyotes in Yorba Linda showed no fear of people -- a bad sign. They'd be a lot less likely to do that sort of thing if people learned how to behave around them: make awful, loud noises if they approach, spray water if available, throw rocks, make the coyotes associate human contact with unpleasant and scary experiences. Instead, communities build artificial lakes, like one in Yorba Linda, and then complain when in the driest months of a dry year, the coyotes are attracted to it. We tend to like the appearance of nature a lot more than we like nature.

In any case, the hunting of entire populations in an area is another matter, especially after the Angeles National Forest fire. We can't start calling the trappers every time a coyote that's lost its habitat comes wandering into neighborhoods. Better to be very uninviting -- actually, downright rude -- hosts. But not killers of every wild creature around.

Photo credit: Spencer Ainsley / AP

--Karin Klein

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