Essential California: The raging debate over Southern California’s wild coyotes

A coyote standing in grass with a rodent in its mouth
A coyote catches a small rodent at Fairview Park in Costa Mesa last year.
(Raul Roa / Times Community News)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Sept. 20. I’m Laura J. Nelson, a staff writer in the California section.

After many years walking the same route at the Silver Lake Reservoir, I know every dog in every yard, every crack in the sidewalk, every quiet intersection where I can stop and admire the view.

If I’m walking after dark, I know to watch out for the spiders spinning their webs across the low-hanging trees, and for the coyotes that roam at dusk.


You hear the pack before you see it, the familiar yip-yip-yips echoing across the water and bouncing off the concrete basins. Some nights, the howling is so loud and sustained that people stop to take videos. That kind of pack activity happened less often a few years ago. Recently, I’ve been hearing it far more.

How best to deal with the coyotes that have spread across Southern California is a major sore point between environmentalists and homeowners, writes my colleague Louis Sahagún. In a piece that takes us inside the escalating war over coyotes, Louis explains how a growing number of “coyote horror stories” have exposed deep disagreements between groups that want humans to peacefully coexist with the animals and people who want more of them to be killed.

At least 69 people have been bitten by coyotes in Los Angeles County over a decade, 20% of them at Elysian Park near Dodger Stadium, according to county records. One child was bitten while carrying a small dog, which the coyote grabbed when the child dropped it.

Torrance is one of the few cities in Southern California that has committed to year-round trapping, killing about one coyote a week by lethal injection. The councilman who has championed the program said with a grin that “experts agree that a dead coyote is 100% less likely to reproduce.”

But it’s not clear how well an all-out war on coyotes would work. The animals are famously tenacious and adaptable, including with their diets. In the stomachs of coyotes that have died in Los Angeles and Orange counties, researchers have found cottontail rabbits, birds, potato bugs, avocados, oranges, peaches, watermelon — and the occasional dog and cat.

One Manhattan Beach resident watched her cat, Milkshake, be devoured by a coyote at 3:46 a.m. on her home security footage, the third cat the family lost in two months. Even extreme wealth isn’t a guarantee that pets will be kept safe: Jessica Simpson, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Ozzy Osbourne and Halle Berry have all had dogs killed by coyotes.


[Read the story: “Inside the escalating war on Southern California’s urban coyotes”]

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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“I think Nicky is having a manic episode.” Nicole Linton, the nurse accused of killing five people, including a pregnant woman, in a fiery 130-mph car crash at La Brea and Slauson avenues, has bipolar disorder and at times was almost unrecognizably aggressive, her family said. She had pursued a successful career as a traveling nurse in at least five states. Los Angeles Times

Meet the “20-Year Club” at an L.A. institution. El Cholo, the venerable Mexican restaurant on Western Avenue, has five employees who have worked more than 200 years among them. Said a cook of four decades: “I never thought about leaving.” A food runner from Michoacán said he has served Elizabeth Taylor, Magic Johnson and Sabado Gigante’s Don Francisco. Los Angeles Times

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How big will your check be? In three weeks, California will begin disbursing some of its $98-billion budget surplus in direct deposit payments to residents. The checks will range from $200 to $1,050, depending on how much you make, whether you file your taxes singly or jointly, and whether you have dependents. Orange County Register

Migrant mystery: Eight Venezuelan migrants who crossed the border in Laredo, Texas, were flown last week to Sacramento with little cash and no idea what they were doing there. The incident follows the decisions by the Republican governors of Florida and Texas to bus and fly immigrants to New York, Washington, D.C., and Martha’s Vineyard. Said one volunteer with a Sacramento nonprofit: “It’s never happened to us before that people just randomly showed up, needing housing or assistance.” Los Angeles Times

Is Gavin Newsom running for president? He’s said he has “sub-zero interest” in the White House. But he aired an ad trashing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and is making abortion access in the Golden State a national issue. Columnists Mark Z. Barabak and Anita Chabria debate the will-he-or-won’t-he question animating California politics. Los Angeles Times


Truth is stranger than fiction: Sherri Papini invented a wild kidnapping hoax that dominated national news headlines in 2016. The Northern California resident has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison. Los Angeles Times

“I do not see the bars that separate me from you.” The Mexican megachurch La Luz Del Mundo, also known as the Light of the World, claims to have more than 5 million members in 50 countries. Their leader, Naasón Joaquín García, is serving 16 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing minors. On a prison phone call to his followers, he asked them to repeat after him: “I promise you, Lord, that whatever the suffering, I will never abandon you.” Associated Press

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Drama roils the chess world: Reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen broke his 53-game winning streak this month when he lost to Hans Niemann, the tournament’s lowest-ranked player (and a native of San Francisco). Carlsen abruptly withdrew and sent a not-so-cryptic tweet that sparked a flurry of speculation about cheating, including one theory that involves a rectal probe. When the two men met in a digital rematch this week, Carlsen abruptly quit after his first move. Wall Street Journal

A name to know: Raleek Brown, a freshman running back, is “churning toward USC fame” already with just a few games under his belt. Brown is a key part of head coach Lincoln Riley’s plan to restore the Trojan football program to its former glory — or, at least, an improvement on last year’s dismal 4-8 showing. Known for his pure speed, Brown grew up in Stockton and played at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana as an upperclassman. Los Angeles Times

We’re in the news sometimes, too: In the four years since Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong bought The Times, the newsroom has grown by 20% and digital subscriptions have grown by 360%. But some staff members have an “awkward and at times tense relationship” with the family, a new story says, based in part on accusations that Soon-Shiong’s 29-year-old daughter, Nika — who is active in progressive politics and calls herself a “special adviser” to The Times — has tried to meddle in news coverage. Politico

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Los Angeles: Sunny, 80. San Diego: Sunny, 77. San Francisco: Mostly cloudy, 71. San Jose: Partly cloudy, 77. Fresno: Partly cloudy, 81. Sacramento: Partly cloudy, 71.


Today’s California memory is from Douglass Carter:

It was 1980, and my brother and I were at the Forum in L.A. for a Jackson Browne concert. Two young women seated in front of us had remained standing, blocking our view of the stage. I tapped one of them on the shoulder to ask them to please sit down. Despite this rather inauspicious beginning, we exchanged phone numbers, and have now been married for 39 years.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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