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Laguna Beach votes to continue trapping coyotes

Laguna Beach votes to continue trapping coyotes
Laguna Beach police recently installed these signs in areas where coyote sightings and attacks have been reported. (Laguna Beach Police Department)

Despite some residents who say that lawful trapping and killing of coyotes is inhumane, the Laguna Beach City Council has voted to continue its trapping program for at least another year.

With this week's decision, the council signaled its priority of keeping residents and their pets safe from the wild animals, which have shown a boldness, entering backyards and houses if doors are left open, according to residents.

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Laguna Beach police reported at the meeting a "larger than average" number of coyote sightings and attacks since January — 83.

The council voted 4 to 1 on Tuesday to approve a $30,000 contract with Critter Busters that calls for the Santa Clarita animal and pest control company to place and monitor traps at various locations throughout Laguna Beach. Mayor Steve Dicterow cast the lone dissenting vote.

The issue was part of a larger discussion about how the city should spend $4.8 million in surplus from its 2014-15 fiscal year budget.

Regarding the coyotes, Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman, who has lived in her house since 1973, said she no longer sees squirrels, possums and raccoons scampering around the property.

"The population of low-hanging fruit [coyote prey] is gone," Iseman said. "Living in fear is not OK. I commend police for all the steps they have taken."

Dicterow said he has scooped up his daughter's 8-pound Pomeranian while encountering coyotes a handful of times, including in his yard, in the last six months, but did not favor trapping.

"We don't need to be killing coyotes," Dicterow said.

Laguna Beach started trapping coyotes in July and, as of early December, had caught five animals, all of which were euthanized to comply with state law.

The city contracted with Animal Pest Management from July through late December, when it switched to Critter Busters because it was more cost-effective, police Sgt. Tim Kleiser wrote in an email.

In addition to trapping, the city has used other strategies to deal with the apparent influx of coyotes in town.

Animal services officers carry paintball guns that shoot water-filled capsules to startle coyotes. Police held three community meetings to instruct residents on ways to deal with coyotes, such as not leaving doors open and not keeping food and water outside.

The city also placed yellow warning signs in areas where attacks or sightings had been reported, including Bluebird Canyon, and created an email address that allows residents to maintain regular communication with police about coyote activity.

But these measures were not enough, Laguna Beach Police Chief Laura Farinella said, calling the 83 reported sightings and attacks "a lot."

"I'm not saying that trapping has to be done all the time," Farinella said. "It got to the point where the community was asking for something more."

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In November, a coyote entered through an open door of a home on Oak Street and snatched John Fischer's Chihuahua from a bedroom while an infant slept a few feet away, he has previously said.

"They have their babies here and there are no predators for them," Fischer said. "If they continue to grow, it's more of a safety issue. It's hard for us to go out in the yard now. Something has to be done. I'm not suggesting to get rid of all coyotes."

Alderton writes for Times Community News.

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