August 19, 2008

State Wants Help Counting Coyotes

By Brenda Duran

LONG BEACH - In an effort to ease anxiety and educate residents on all things related to wild coyotes, Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske invited community members to a forum at the El Dorado Senior Center on Monday evening.

Residents from her 5th District, along with others from surrounding neighborhoods, turned out to hear representatives from California Fish and Game and Long Beach Animal Care Services discuss the growth of the city's coyote population.

At the meeting, officials urged residents to begin to form "Wildlife Watch" groups in their neighborhoods.

The effort is modeled after "Neighborhood Watch" and encourages residents to make a plan of action and help one another monitor coyotes and other wildlife by reporting sightings and activity.

Schipske said the idea for the forum came up following an overwhelming number of calls from residents about coyotes roaming in their neighborhoods.

John Keisler, director of the Long Beach Animal Care Services, informed residents that 58 coyote sightings and incidents have been reported in Long Beach so far this year.

None of the incidents involved attacks on humans.

Most of the sightings have been in the 90815 and 90808 ZIP codes, said Keisler.

Keisler assured residents that his department has begun to map coyotes in the region, and will make information available online.

"We want to assure you if there is ever a threat we will be there," Keisler said.

Residents also received a brief tutorial from Joseph Torres of The California Department of Fish and Game.

Torres explained to residents the importance of not providing food, shelter and water to roaming coyotes in the area as well as coyote biology and the importance of establishing a Wildlife Watch.

Simple steps such as keeping tight lids on trash bins, safeguarding small pets outdoors and cleaning out food trays go a long way toward keeping wildlife off properties and preventing conflicts, said Torres.

"It takes a neighborhood to try and take these attractions away," said Torres, who also outlined state laws about not feeding wild animals.

A number of questions followed the presentation, with residents inquiring about how to document coyote activity in their neighborhoods, as well as others expressing concern of the survival of the coyotes in the urban sprawl.

Margaux Kohut, who lives in Bixby Village, said she did not think having a Wildlife Watch was sufficient and instead recommended officials revisit a state policy that prevents them from relocating coyotes.

Kohut said there is currently one coyote roaming in her neighborhood that continues to "hunt day and night."

"We need to relocate them, their habitat is very small we've taken over it," said Kohut, whose cat was eaten by a coyote five years ago. "This solution of the watch is not going to be consistent, the coyotes will just keeping moving to another neighborhood."

Others like Billie Scheaffer, who lives in the 5th District, said she was also concerned for the well-being and habitat of the coyotes in her neighborhood.

"What are they supposed to do? Starve?" said Scheaffer. "It doesn't seem fair. We have to think of ways to help them, too."

Torres informed residents that a volunteer from his department would help residents establish a plan in the coming months.

Animal Care officials also noted they will continue to respond to wildlife calls that involve injured, sick and dead coyotes.

For information on coyotes in the area, visit acs or call 562-570-7387.

[email protected], 499-1297

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