September 17, 2000
Sentinel staff writer
Coyotes: Suburbs create 'fast food restaurants' for opportunists
Group offers suggestions on coping with coyotes
SCOTTS VALLEY — Two weeks ago, Shirley Pierce saw an amazing sight from the
deck of her home — a coyote "feeding frenzy" at 2 o’clock in the
Pierce and her husband have lived in the Hidden Glen
neighborhood, just down the street from Henry Cowell State Park, for 23
years. She was astonished to find coyotes have become her next-door
"We’re nose-to-nose with them," she said.
She’s not the only one.
Granite Creek in Scotts Valley to Ben Lomond and Lompico, people report
hearing — and seeing — more coyotes, literally in their back yards.
Residents who have lost pet cats blame the coyotes. Others, seeing the
boldness of the coyote, are worried about their own safety.
doesn’t surprise Mary Paglieri, founder of a San Mateo-based
organization that aims to manage conflicts with wildlife through
education. Her organization, Little Blue Society, got its name because
from a distance, Earth looks like a "little blue" orb.
is getting invitations from around the San Francisco Bay Area to advise
people how to cope with the coyotes. About 15 people came to hear her
talk in Scotts Valley last week.
The problem, she said, is that
people are creating "fast food restaurants" for coyotes, who normally
spend dusk to dawn foraging for survival.
Although coyotes are
adept hunters, they are opportunistic in their eating habits. Rodents
make up 90 percent of their diet, but wildlife experts have found
coyotes also will eat carrion, spilled garbage, compost leftovers and
even fallen fruit.
Some people enjoy leaving out food for
wildlife, while others may provide an inadvertent supply via
bird-feeders that spill seed that attracts rats and then coyotes. Food
bowls or water dishes for pets, left outdoors, also can be alluring.
"If you create the opportunities, they will come," Paglieri said.
Once coyotes discover this quick and easy food source, they tend to become more aggressive, and may confront humans.
someone feels threatened by its presence, and it’s a death sentence,"
Paglieri said, recommending that humans change their habits to remove
the food that brings coyotes around.
While some people may think
the solution is to shoot or trap and remove the coyote, Paglier
contends that this will result in the arrival of a new coyote to take
over the territory.
People have begun noticing coyotes during
the summer because this is when pups are taught how to hunt, increasing
the demand for food, said Jim Nee, a Santa Cruz wildlife biologist and
county agricultural inspector.
The population is growing because
the coyote has only two main predators — man and mountain lions.
Moreover, if food and water are abundant, litter sizes increase.
"It’s a natural phenomenon," Nee said.
Residents like Shelley Roge worry that coyotes are ranging further afield because of development.
human development is shrinking their environment," Paglieri said,
citing an example in Portola Valley where million-dollar homes were
built next to a "wildlife corridor."
In the past three years,
Scotts Valley has seen the woods and fields at the southern end of the
city give way to the Monte Fiore subdivision and the Inn at Scotts
Two other large residential developments have been proposed for Glenwood Drive and the former Polo Ranch next to Inprise.
outside the Scotts Valley city limits, the Graham Hill showgrounds also
is undergoing residential development. In the San Lorenzo Valley,
logging could send animals searching elsewhere for food.
"More foresight into development can help," said Paglieri.
San Ramon, where officials proposed a bocce court, barbecue and fruit
trees near an old coyote den, she recommended flowering trees instead
and emphasized the importance of keeping grills clean.
advised people who live near streams — the coyote’s water source — to
encourage them to go elsewhere by scaring them with a blast of a water
hose or a noisy soda can filled with pennies.
"They need to learn we don’t want them to be chummy," he said.
A combination motion detector-sprinkler, available at Orchard Supply Hardware for $90, is another alternative.
"Since it works on dogs, I’m confident it would work on coyotes," Nee said.
Rowan of Ben Lomond, who lost her cat to a coyote, now keeps her pets
indoors at night. She knows coyotes are still around.
"I hear them every day at 4 a.m.," she said.
Karlin of Wildlife Associates, who cares for "non-releasable wildlife"
in Half Moon Bay, said he could sympathize with the people whose pets
may have been devoured by a coyote.
"You have this vision of a
wild beast tearing apart your pet," he said. "We want to villainize
this creature we don’t understand."
Still, there is more to the picture.
know coyotes can show affection," he said, citing how parents keep tabs
on pups and how coyotes hunt together when food is scarce. "They don’t
think they are murdering. They are feeding themselves in the only way
they know how."
IF YOU SEE A COYOTE
* Do not advance toward it
* Do not smile or bare your teeth
* Calmly leave the area If a coyote approaches you:
* Do not run
* Do not turn your back
* Stand tall, make loud noises
* Toss an object at it
* Keep yourself between the animal and small children
TO KEEP PETS SAFE
* Keep them indoors
* Walk pets on a leash
* Put up a 7-foot post with a perch for outdoor cats
* Don’t leave food outdoors
* Fence your yard
Tips from Little Blue Society
For more information, call 650-365-8623
Contact Jondi Gumz at firstname.lastname@example.org.