May 22, 2008

New American River Parkway Signs Warn of Potential Coyote Danger

By Ramon Coronado, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.

May 22--Prompted by a recent rash of coyote attacks on children in Southern California suburbs, American River Parkway rangers have posted signs warning park visitors of the wild canine in Carmichael.

"Our rangers have noticed quite a few," said Steve Flannery, the county's chief park ranger.

Three 3-foot-high, A-frame portable signs are up at the William Pond Recreation Area and at the Harrington Drive access to the American River near Arden Way.

"It is not a problem yet, but if it's going to be a problem, it will be there," Flannery said of the two locations.

The warning signs, which advise that coyotes are frequently in this area, went up earlier this month after a half-dozen children were reported to have been victims of coyote attacks in the Lake Arrowhead mountain resort area and in suburbs of east Los Angeles.

One coyote snapped its jaws onto the buttocks of a girl and another coyote grabbed a girl by the head and tried to drag her from her front yard until her mother scared it away, according to published reports.

None of the attacks resulted in serious injury. But they have left parents jittery and wildlife experts puzzled in the south state.

Along the American River, there hasn't been an attack on a human in the past 30 years, Flannery said.

In late February, an unleashed dog was chased by a coyote in the William Pond area, he said.

And two years ago, a coyote was trapped and killed after it chased a dog and its owner, who had snatched her pet up and fled.

This time of the year, Flannery said, coyotes give birth and need more food for themselves and their pups. Coyotes are highly protective of their breeding area and don't like their domestic counterparts sniffing near their dens, he said.

The American River signs also remind dog owners of the county requirement to keep their pets on a leash.

Flannery says he believes that local coyotes are more territorial than they are aggressive.

"We don't want to alarm people, but we want to keep people on the alert," he said.

For Guy Galante, who photographs coyotes along the river, the furry creature has become a passion during the past six months.

"I'm out there just about every day," said the 35-year-old Arden Arcade resident.

"They usually see you before you see them," he said.

"They mostly travel by themselves, but at night you can hear them together," Galante said.

The former middle school teacher said the recently posted signs are a good thing.

"I think it's important to let people know that there are coyotes in the area," he said.

Galante recommended park users carry whistles to scare off coyotes that get too close.

"People should respect a coyote's space. Let them be fearful so that we can live in the same place together," Galante said.


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