Environment & Science

After rash of sightings, LA reviews coyote management plan

A coyote walks near a construction site near downtown Los Angeles.
A coyote walks near a construction site near downtown Los Angeles.
Stuart Palley for KPCC

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Los Angeles, City Councilman Joe Buscaino wants animal control officials to take another look at how they handle coyotes following an increase of reported sightings of the animal, especially in San Pedro.

On Wednesday, the council's Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee will hear a report from the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services about possible changes to the city's Wildlife Program.

The report, which is publicly available, urges against changes to the program and in particular recommends against instating a trapping and killing program. 

Buscaino asked for the report after his office noticed an uptick in complaints about missing pets and coyote sightings on social media.

California Fish and Game estimates there are 750,000 coyotes in California. Their range extends throughout the state, including into population centers like Los Angeles.

In San Pedro, concerned residents have taken to Facebook to lobby for more attention from the city. Their page, "San Pedro Coyote Watch," has more than 600 members, some of whom say LA's coyote policy lacks teeth.

"Screw humans, and coddle the coyote! That's their motto," wrote member Theresa Hew.

Until 1994, the city regularly trapped and shot coyotes. This was stopped after public outcry and studies that concluded that kill programs were ineffective and expensive.

"Coyotes removed from an area will quickly be replaced by others," the report from the Animal Services Department reads. 

The department argues that the increasing visibility of LA's coyote population is the result of adaptation. The animals have become acclimated to living next to humans and have become accustomed to feeding off LA's garbage and small pets.

Relocation isn't an option either, the report says, because coyotes, "will do almost anything to get back home." Moving a coyote out of its original habitat is also illegal under state law.

The department says the best way to limit coyote impacts is to adhere to its existing management program, which relies on education.

Officials advise keeping an eye on pets and securing  possible food sources like animal feed or garbage. They also advise people to "haze" coyotes when they see them by throwing rocks or making threatening gestures and noises at the animal. 

Feeding a wild predator carries a $100 minimum fine.  

Other cities, however, have decided to take a more aggressive approach to their coyote problem. Torrance has begun a trapping program, and in neighboring  Palos Verdes,  five coyotes were shot by the LA County Department of Agriculture this year.