Mark Twain once described the coyote as, "a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton," that is, "a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry." It appears that Southern California coyotes are very, very hungry.
Sightings have been reported in Glendale, Tustin, Fountain Valley, and an Irvine man said he was confronted by one at his front door. As sightings become increasingly frequent, animal-control officials are trying to help educate the public about what to do if they see a coyote.
Urban wildlife specialist Lynsey White Dasher said the increase in coyote sightings doesn't indicate a population increase.
"Coyotes have been in Southern California for quite some time, but we might be seeing them more often because some of them have lost their fear of people and are becoming [braver]. Seeing a coyote during the daytime doesn't necessarily mean that that coyote is aggressive or sick, but if they don't run away from you right away, that is a habituated coyote," she said.
These primarily nocturnal animals are just looking for the three essentials: food, water, and shelter. According to Dasher, animals usually lose their shyness because someone has been feeding them – whether or not they're aware of it.
"A lot of sources of food are items that we don't purposefully leave out for wildlife. If we leave our pet food outside, that's a big attractant to coyotes. Fruit that has fallen on the ground," she listed. "Coyotes actually are omnivores, and a lot of their diet, especially in urban areas, is made up of fruit."
Dasher's three tips on how to deal with trespassing coyotes:
1. Make sure you don't have food.
Look around your yard and your neighborhood for possible coyote attractants, like pet food or fallen fruit littering the ground. Gardens, compost piles and garbage can also lure coyotes looking to fill their stomachs – use preventative measures like locked enclosures or fences (at least six feet tall) to keep the animals out.
2. Make sure you're always supervising your pets when they're outside.
Big or small, pet cats and dogs can be targets for attack. Coyotes may see smaller pets as prey, and larger ones as territorial threats.
3. Whenever you see a coyote, act big and scary.
Blow an air horn, take a whistle when you're walking your dog. Squirt a squirt gun, use a water hose, bang pots and pans. These are all ways to make noise and scare off a coyote.
Listen to the rest of the interview for more tips and facts about coyotes.
Have you seen a coyote recently? Do you think they coyote population needs to be controlled? Have you ever fed a coyote?
Lynsey White Dasher, urban wildlife specialist, Humane Society of The United States