June 17, 2008

Coyotes Killing Pets in Marina, Del Rey Oaks

Coyotes have been attacking and sometimes killing domestic pets in Marina and Del Rey Oaks, prompting Marina police to issue an alert.

Brad Alexander of Del Rey Oaks said coyotes have been running through his Via Verde neighborhood and almost a dozen cats, including his, have turned up dead.

"We are seeing the coyotes running down the street at night chasing cats as early as 8 p.m." said Alexander, who has lived in the neighborhood for almost two years.

In the last five months, most of the dead cats have been found at Del Rey Park where he and friends walk their dogs, Alexander said.

"Some people are getting scared. It's getting out of control," he said.

In Marina, police reported two dogs have suffered minor injuries in the last two weeks after they were attacked by a pack of coyotes while out on walks with their owners.

The first attack happened about noon on June 7 on a trail near Inter-Garrison Road and Schoonover Park and involved three coyotes. The other involved a pack of four and happened about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday near 3rd and 12th streets, police said. And a single coyote was seen stalking a dog and its owner Friday in Hayes Park, prompting police to issue a warning for residents to be alert.

While changes in food supply and new construction in once undeveloped areas can push coyotes into residential areas, the recent attacks can most likely be attributed to the animal's territorial nature, said Terry Palmisano, a senior wildlife biologist

with the state Department of Fish and Game.

"They don't see domestic dogs as domestic dogs. They see another canine out there moving in on its territory," said Palmisano. "Coyotes are pretty adaptable so pretty much any area that is open space is fair game for them."

She said coyotes tend to exhibit more aggressive behavior during the spring and early summer while rearing pups.

Though coyotes on rare occasions have been known to attack humans, particularly children, Palmisano said their prey are typically small animals, including cats.

"They look at cats as a food source ... they don't see it as your pet," Palmisano said. "If you really love your pets, you need to keep them in at night."

Pet owners can take other steps to try to avoid attracting coyotes and other wild predators, such as not leaving bowls with food or water for pets out overnight, Palmisano said.

"Leaving it out attracts the wildlife to your back door," she said. "If there is water available, they will take advantage of it."

To try to steer clear of the coyotes roaming around his house, Alexander said he tries to head home from Del Rey Park before dark and doesn't visit the Frog Pond Natural Area on Canyon Del Rey Road.

"For me, it's like a mountain lion or a coyote is just waiting down there for you," Alexander said. "What happens when all the cats are gone?"

Palmisano said in some cases the Department of Fish and Game will remove coyotes and other wild animals from areas when they pose a threat to human life.

"We would like to take care of this by educating the public so we don't have to get to that extreme measure," she said.

If anyone does encounter a coyote or another wild predator, Palmisano said they should leave the area, yell, make noise or throw things at it to scare it off.

"It's like a rattlesnake or anything else, you have to keep your head up and avoid it," she said. "The more distance you put between you and the coyote, the less threat."

Daniel Lopez can be reached at 646-4494 or [email protected]

Avoiding human-coyote conflicts -- Bird feeders should be positioned so that coyotes can't get the food. Coyotes are attracted by bread, table scraps, and even seed. They may also be attracted by birds and rodents that come to the feeders. -- Do not discard edible garbage where coyotes can get to it. -- Feed pets indoors whenever possible. Pick up any leftovers if feeding outdoors. -- Trim and clean, near ground level, any shrubbery that provides cover for coyotes or prey. -- Don't leave small children unattended outside if coyotes have been frequenting the area. -- Don't allow pets to run free. Keep them safely confined and provide secure nighttime housing for them. Walk your dog on a leash and accompany your pet outside, especially at night. Source: California Department of Fish and Game. More information about coyotes and other nuisance, dangerous or injured wildlife is available at www.dfg.ca.gov/education/living.html. ------