Tricycles, push cars, two slides and a seesaw sit unused in Dana Powell’s quiet backyard. But the yard, enclosed by a 6-foot cinder-block wall, no longer feels safe to her.
Powell runs a licensed day-care out of her house and used to use her backyard as a playground for her six charges. Not anymore.
A little less than a month ago, Powell woke up and found her 18-pound Chihuahua, Cleo, in the mouth of a coyote, but that wasn’t when the trouble started. Two years ago, coyotes started showing up in Powell’s Bolsa Chica-Edinger tract in Huntington Beach. Since then, dogs and cats have disappeared, and coyotes have become more brazen. Residents fear a child will be the next victim.
Powell has lived in her home for 31 years and didn’t know until recently that there were coyotes in the area. Now she doesn’t feel comfortable leaving kids alone in the backyard and carries along a baseball bat, hockey stick and air horn.
But she remains nervous.
“I grew up here,” she said. “I played in my backyard. I want my grandkids to play in my backyard.”
Some coyotes aren’t afraid of people anymore, but it’s not their fault, Powell said — it’s the residents. Coyotes come into the neighborhood for food, pets and leftovers. Even garbage attracts coyotes.
Police Chief Ken Small declared the coyote problem a public safety issue during a City Council study session on Feb. 16. The Huntington Beach Police Department, state Department of Fish and Game and Orange County Animal Control came together to discuss the issue with the council.
Fish and Game Lt. Kent Smirl recommended that the city implement a two-part strategy of educating residents and eliminating coyotes that have lost their fear of humans.
Residents can help stop coyotes coming into their neighborhoods by cutting off food and water sources. Among the department’s recommendations: Never leave food outside, including pet food and bird seed; secure garbage containers; trim shrubbery; keep pets indoors; and walk dogs on leashes no longer than 6 feet.
Police are meeting soon to discuss the educational aspects of the plan, which will probably include a community presentation, mailings and hand-delivered materials, Small said.
Police have already put out two coyote traps that have so far been unsuccessful. The department paid a trapper $150 to place the traps in January, said Lt. Russell Reinhart, adding that the department has signed a $2,500 contract with a new trapper to put out a different kind of trap that it hopes will be more successful.
The traps are humane and approved by the Department of Fish and Game, Reinhart said.
Police don’t know yet where the traps will be set, although residents have offered their backyards, Small said.
Officials are letting the trapper determine the best locations.
With the city moving forward, Powell is happy with how responsive officials have been.
One thing, however, that needs to happen is a city ordinance prohibiting people from leaving out food for wild animals, she said.
“Without that in place, we can’t back up getting people to stop,” she said.
Although the city is working to fix the coyote problem, not everyone is convinced there is one.
Several residents spoke out during the study session against killing the wild canines.
Coyotes are an important part of the ecosystem, residents told the council.
Amigos de Bolsa Chica President Jennifer Robins said people need to learn to coexist with wildlife.
Powell agrees, but said the coyotes that are the problem aren’t in the wild anymore.
Although a plan is under way, Powell said she will never feel fully safe letting the kids play in the backyard again.
“It will always be in the back of my mind,” she said.
Tips And Tricks
To prevent coyotes in residential areas, the Department of Fish and Game recommends:
Never feed a coyote
Feed pets inside, or bring pet food inside before night.
Eliminate any water sources for coyotes
Don’t feed feral cats
Make sure coyotes can’t get to bird feeders
Secure trash cans
Trim shrubbery near ground level that coyotes can hide under.
If you see a coyote, yell or throw rocks to let them know they aren’t welcome.
If you see a coyote, report it to 911.
What Do You Think?
What steps should the city take to prevent coyote attacks? Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on our website.