NORWALK — Although it’s legal to kill a coyote under certain circumstances, the city will take a more humane approach with a “coexistence and management” plan, approved on a 5-0 vote by the City Council Oct. 1.
Public Safety Director Grissel Chavez said a coyote may be killed if it is attacking a person or pet and under state law anyone can hire a licensed hunter to kill the animals.
But a report by Chavez and Management Analyst Amanda Moreno stated that Humane Society studies indicate killing or relocating animals doesn’t work as the dead animal is soon replaced and an animal taken from the area to another location often finds its way back.
Instead, the city Management and Coexistence Plan aims at educating the public and urging residents to call and report coyote sightings to the Public Safety Department at (562) 929-5732.
City staff will form a wildlife watch, using data from residents to chart actions of coyotes.
Maps will be made for citywide distribution showing where large numbers of coyotes may be found, Moreno said.
“The management plan is to discourage the habituation of coyotes in an urban environment by using education, behavior modification and development of a tiered response to aggressive coyote behavior,” the report states.
This plan is guided by the following basic principles, Moreno said in an oral report.
• Human safety is a priority in managing human-coyote interactions.
• Understanding that coyotes serve an important role in the ecosystem by helping to control the population of rodents, rabbits and other urban mammals.
• Preventive practices such as reduction and removal of food attractants, habitat modification and responding appropriately when interacting with wildlife are key to minimizing potential interactions with coyotes.
• Solutions for coyote conflicts must address both problematic coyote behaviors (such as aggression towards people and attacks on pets) and the problematic human behaviors (intentionally or unintentionally feeding coyotes and letting pets outside unattended) that contribute to conflicts.
“A community-wide program that involves residents is necessary for achieving coexistence among people, coyotes and pets,” Chavez and Moreno said in the report.
“Recommended actions in this plan are designed to increase knowledge and understanding of how coyotes behave and to make clear how such behavior can be managed or reduced to eliminate human conflicts with coyotes. The ultimate goal of coyote behavior modification is to encourage the natural relocation of coyotes to their native environment.”
“This plan is a step in the right direction. We have received many complaints from residents.”
“This plan will show that we are addressing the problem,” Mayor Margarita Rios said.
Moreno told the Council that city staff has worked with other communities and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on how to respond to the recent influx of coyotes in urban areas.
Historically, coyotes have existed for years in Norwalk and Los Angeles County, finding safe haven in areas within the city where dense brush is prominent, the report said. These areas provide suitable locations where coyotes can safely build dens and reproduce
Wildlife experts say the prolonged drought has limited potential food sources for the coyotes and has drawn the coyotes to residential neighborhoods in search of food and water.
Coyotes primarily eat small mammals, such as rabbits, ground squirrels and mice. They tend to prefer fresh meat but will eat significant amounts of fruits and vegetables during the autumn and winter months when their prey is scarce.
The report said coyotes will adapt their diet to what is available. A lack of prey and closer proximity to residents has led the coyotes to seek alternative food sources, including small pets, pet food and fallen fruits and vegetables in the backyards of homes.
In answer to a question by Councilman Leonard Shryock, Moreno said coyotes will enter a yard looking for food if they are hungry enough.
Generally, coyotes are reclusive animals who avoid human contact. As coyotes have become urbanized, however, they have realized there are few real threats in suburban environments. This has resulted in coyotes approaching people and even feeling safe visiting yards when people are present, the report stated.
In response to coyote activity in neighborhoods, the city relies on its residents to report encounters but more importantly, to follow the recommended action plan when they encounter coyotes.
In Norwalk, the Downey-based Southeast Area Animal Control Authority will handle coyote issues such as disposal of sick, injured or dead animals. SEAACA can be reached at (562) 803-3301,
If a coyote is posing an immediate threat, residents are advised to call 911.
By Arnold Adler