As land development in Orange County pushes into the foothills and former wild land, residents have had an increasing number of confrontations with the areas’ native inhabitants--the wily coyotes.
The coyote, like man, is a victim of the negative aspects of growth. And like man, the coyote adapts, adjusts and learns to live in new surroundings.
The coexistence, however, is not entirely peaceful. Nor is it always desirable. Housing tracts on the doorstep of coyotes’ natural habitat provide the setting for dangerous changes in the animal’s behavior.
The coyote, according to wildlife experts, is a member of the canine family that generally fears people and flees from them on sight. But familiarity brings about a change, and in the peaceful setting of a housing tract, with plenty of food, water and local pets to stalk, the coyotes lose their fear of humans. They become more brazen. Visible. Lazy. And dependent on the residential neighborhood for the easy abundance it provides.
Coyote sightings have increased dramatically from San Clemente to the Anaheim Hills. Fortunately, there have been no deaths or attacks on children since 1987 in Yorba Linda.
But pets have been attacked and killed. There is talk once again of employing a sharpshooter to hunt down and kill the most daring coyotes causing the most trouble.
That, however, is a stopgap, short-range solution to a specific part of the coyote problem.
As long as land development continues to rob coyotes of their living space and people push farther and farther into their domain, the most effective approach is still preventive.
Residents should not, under any circumstances, feed coyotes or leave pet food and water dishes outside where coyotes can get to them. Some cities, like San Clemente, even have enacted laws against such feedings. Trash cans should be kept tightly closed. Underbrush should be trimmed and children and pets closely supervised.
For its own protection, the community must also not take from coyotes their fear of humans and their natural ability to hunt and survive in what is left of the county’s brush country.