July 17, 2000
San Ramon tries to deal with coyotes
Panel hears concerns
SAN RAMON -- One resident says he has lost eight pet cats to coyotes.
Another says three cats and a dog have been killed by the wild canines.
A third was followed last week by one of the animals as she walked her
A forum on "Co-Existing With Coyotes" at the San Ramon
Community Center drew residents worried about increased coyote
sightings and incidents.
A panel of mostly wildlife experts at
the Thursday meeting discussed ways to discourage coyotes from becoming
comfortable around humans and turning into neighborhood nuisance.
city of San Ramon and Little Blue Society, a San Mateo-based
organization that aims to manage conflicts between humans and wildlife
through public education, organized the event after two coyote
incidents at Dougherty Hills Park in May -- one of which led to the
death of a dog -- and the discovery of a den site in adjacent San
The Dublin city park comprises about 90 acres of
undeveloped land to the east of Stagecoach Road and to the north of
Amador Valley Boulevard.
The panel of experts emphasized that
modifying people's behavior -- not eliminating coyotes -- is the key to
a long-term, peaceable relationship with the animals.
kill a bunch of coyotes, you will eventually have other coyotes move
in," said Christopher Papouchis, a wildlife biologist with the Animal
Protection Institute of Sacramento. Noting the San Ramon Valley's many
housing developments that run up against open space, he added: "This is
going to keep popping up."
Mary A. Paglieri, founder of the
Little Blue Society, said that similar situations have occurred in
other California cities. Portola Valley currently is having a problem
with coyotes attacking dogs, Paglieri said. There's a rumor someone is
feeding the coyotes, she said.
said she is organizing a community education meeting, similar to the
one in San Ramon, for the Portola Ranch Association.
Residents can take measures to maintain distance between humans and coyotes, she said.
experts recommend, for example, keeping cats indoors, especially at
night, and never feeding coyotes. Paglieri emphasized that residents
must work together in taking these kinds of steps. For example, if only
one person is leaving food out for coyotes, that is enough to encourage
the animals to return to the neighborhoods.
But some residents
at the meeting were miffed at the prospect of not being allowed to,
say, let their kids and grandchildren play in backyards unsupervised
because of the coyote threat.
fact, there has only been one confirmed case of a coyote killing a
human: A young child in Glendale died after being attacked by a coyote
in the early 1980s. But Papouchis pointed out that residents of that
neighborhood had been regularly leaving food out for the animals.
"When coyotes begin associating us with an easy source of food, they can get bold and even aggressive," Paglieri said.
any case, Reg Morrison, a San Ramon resident who lives next to open
space in the area of Burning Trees Drive and Alcosta Boulevard, said he
has lost eight cats to coyotes and is alarmed at their apparent growing
Morrison said he is in favor of thinning out the population.
years ago, we had no coyote problem at all," Morrison said. He said he
now regularly sees them on the other side of his fence.
"They got no fear. And they will get a kid. You watch," he said.
Shirley Alberti and Joyce Stolzy, both of whom live near Fircrest Lane
and Alcosta Boulevard, said they had concerns about coyotes in the
Stolzy said coyotes had killed three cats and a dog.
pretty concerned with these particular coyotes," Stolzy said. "They
don't have that fear of humans that is good for them and good for us."
said that since seeing a coyote sitting on her porch in April, she is
frightened to go out in the dark to pick up the newspaper delivered to
Last week, resident Ann Charzuk said she was walking
her golden retriever along Monte Vista Drive near Old Ranch Road when
she saw a coyote approaching them. She began to run but, after a moment
of consideration, realized that she could not outpace the animal.
she started to yell at it. The coyote stopped, but when she turned to
continue walking, the coyote followed them. Charzuk picked up some
stones and threw them at the coyote, which was getting closer, but she
said she was shaking so hard that she missed.
"I had never been so scared in my life," Charzuk said.
When the coyote was less than 10 feet away, she said she succeeded in hitting it, at which point it began to bark and howl.
Then it went away.
Danville woman at the event said she had been walking her two Yorkshire
terriers on a Sunday afternoon when she saw a coyote. She said she
picked up her dogs and ran.
Wildlife experts on the panel said
that coyote populations fluctuate, tending to increase after wet years
and decrease during drought years.
Rick Parmer, a supervising
naturalist with the state Department of Fish and Game, has said that,
in general, Bay Area coyote populations have been on the rise. The wild
canines have no real predators, although a mountain lion may try to
take one if the conditions are right.
Paglieri said that they are a positive influence on the environment.
are nature's garbage service," she said, noting that they eat dead
carcasses of animals. They also keep rodent populations down, she said.
Coyotes are extremely smart and adaptive, experts say.
Fox, wildlife program coordinator with the Animal Protection Institute
of Sacramento, said "they will eat almost anything" -- berries, cat
So it is important to shut down their food sources in neighborhoods, the panelists said.
"They'll go where the food is," Parmer said.
attacks on humans, however, are extremely rare, and are usually the
result of a human actions, such as trying to feed the animals, Parmer
He said the department encourages letting coyotes know
that they are unwelcome near humans by using "constructive harassment"
-- that is, yelling at them if they get too near and, if the coyote
doesn't respond to this, throwing rocks at it.
He said that if
the coyote problem persists or worsens, residents can also look into
killing them by contacting a federal wildlife specialist.
city of Dublin contacted a federal wildlife specialist, who contracts
with the Alameda County Vector Control Services District, after the
coyote incidents at Dougherty Hills Park.
the state Department of Fish and Game said it does not consider the
coyotes a public-safety problem, said Dublin Mayor Guy Houston.
The department can OK the use of leg-hold traps if it considers the coyotes a public-safety problem.
constitutes a public-safety problem is a judgment call, Parmer said. He
said that it would most likely be behavior such as striking an
aggressive posture -- teeth-baring, snarling -- and not responding to
yelling or rock-throwing.
But coyotes can be shot, and this is
the most likely recourse for eliminating the animals if one of the
cities decides it wants to, said Brian Archuleta of the U.S. Department
Archuleta has said that neither San Ramon nor Dublin has contacted the
agency to request that any such steps be taken. He also said the
communities would have to give permission to the wildlife specialist to
use guns within the city limits.