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Street-Wise Coyotes Find a Home in L.A.

from Associated Press

In the urban territorial war between man and coyote in the nation’s second-largest city, the slinky, street-wise canine appears to be coming out on top.

Despite an aggressive trapping program by the Los Angeles Department of Animal Regulation, the street-smart animals continue to trot nonchalantly on city sidewalks, snapping up pet cats or pawing through garbage in search of an easy meal.

“I don’t even know if they nuked L.A. if they could get rid of the coyotes,” said Lt. Richard Felosky of the department’s West Los Angeles office.

“Not only are they super-sneaky, but super-adaptable, too. They’re as intelligent as anything I’ve seen in the animal kingdom. they’re wily coyotes, just like the cartoon,” Felosky said, referring to the character Wile E. Coyote.

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Robert Rush, animal regulation general manager, said the number of complaints about coyote attacks and related problems has jumped about 25% in the last two years, up to about 1,200 a year. Most are reports of attacks on pets.

Hollywood to Bel-Air

The animals, which resemble a narrow-snouted, small German shepherd mix, have been seen nearly everywhere in the city--mostly at night--from the streets of Hollywood to the sidewalks of posh Bel-Air.

Rush even suggests that the mild climate, abundant food and lack of predators has produced a bigger breed weighing between 25 and 30 pounds. One coyote recently trapped by a wildlife officer weighed 37 pounds--"a big guy” contrasted with its scrawny cousins in other Western states that average about 20 pounds, Rush said.

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But the City Council’s move to double the number of wildlife officers to trap and kill the animals may send the urban coyotes back into the rugged canyons that rim the city.

Not that the trappers expect to wipe out the animals--they just want to thin the population and force a retreat.

“We hope to decrease the population,” said Larry Morales, one of the city’s two trapping experts. “To the point of extinction--no. They’re too intelligent for that.”

Cats, Dogs Victimized

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While experts say it’s nearly impossible to count how many coyotes make the 450-square-mile city their home--estimates range from 500 to 2,000--most agree that the population has not increased significantly in the past several years.

“It’s generally status quo,” Felosky said.

Rather, the rise in attacks is due to new homes being built in the canyons and other formerly wild areas, thrusting humans into coyote habitats and sending the animal refugees scurrying into new urban landscapes. Cats and small dogs seem to be the most frequent victims, gobbled up or nearly torn apart. Most attacks occur during the night or early dawn, when the howling, nocturnal predators like to hunt.

One Pasadena resident, Ted Turk, had a frightening encounter with a bold coyote while walking his terrier near the Huntington Library one night about a year ago. He heard a noise, turned around and saw a coyote grabbing his dog by the neck.

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He ran back and frightened the coyote away, then grabbed his bleeding terrier and began walking home. The coyote followed Turk for several blocks, then disappeared. The dog survived, albeit with stitches.

Diseases Carried by Fleas

Cats are even easier prey, Felosky said.

“There’s so much food here in L.A.,” he said. “They love cats. Cats are filet for coyotes.”

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