Comments & Curiosities: The sound that divides

Is it "beep beep" or "meep meep"?

The jury is still out but we'll get to that in a minute. There are coyotes in Costa Mesa.

That isn't exactly news, because there are urban coyotes in almost every city, including one called New York, which has a crew of the beasties in Central Park. Do I care about coyotes in Central Park? Let me think, no.

But in the last few months, coyotes have been strolling around the Mesa del Mar neighborhood like they were large and in-charge and chilling at TeWinkle Park. A few pets have been attacked, some of which became former pets, which is not good.

All of that concerns me a whole lot more than what is or is not in Central Park because I happen to know someone called "me" whose grandkids live next door to TeWinkle Park and love to play there. So if there are coyotes in the mix, we need to help them relocate, like yesterday.

Fortunately, Costa Mesa animal control is on the case and they have a plan for the little beasties, as reported in this very publication. The coyotes that are hanging at TeWinkle Park didn't spring from the ground. They eased down the road, or in their case, crept down the road, from open areas like the Back Bay, the Santa Ana River and Fairview Park.

The city has hired a firm called Urban Wildlife Professionals — a self-explanatory name, no? — to set up snares on the trails and pathways that are most likely to pop up on whatever travel sites coyotes use when they're planning a trip. The snares will snag coyotes but won't harm peeps or pets.

So what motivates coyotes to pack their bags and strike out for parts unknown? Two things: predators and/or food. I can relate to the second one — very high on my list. But urban areas are weak on the predator part, which leaves city coyotes free to do whatever it is they do, which, frankly I don't need to know about. There are things that prey on coyotes in the wild, but anything that plans to get in a coyote's face better be big and mean and weigh more than I do, which is not easy.

So that leaves food. OK fine, but what do coyotes eat? It isn't complicated: anything, everything, plus whatever doesn't fit into either of those categories. Whatever traits coyotes have, discriminating taste isn't one of them. When the food in their usual 'hood dries up, heading for the nearest housing area is a bold move, but it's the mother lode. There are pet food dishes left out on patios everywhere and garbage cans as far as the eye can see.

When you have an oasis like TeWinkle Park, complete with ponds and streams — it is the promised land. And no, this isn't a story about those terrible city dwellers encroaching on natural habitat. Mesa del Mar and TeWinkle Park are not remote way stations deep in Santiago Canyon, thank you very much. They are right smack in the middle of a city and no coyotes need apply. Now that I'm an expert in tot lots, again, I can tell you that TeWinkle Park has the best playground ever, anywhere for small noisy people and their personal assistants. Urban Wildlife Professionals, get out there and do your thing. It's important.

And that brings us back to whether it's "beep beep" or "meep meep." That sound, of course, is the signature of the Warner Brothers' Roadrunner, who never loses his smile and spends his days and nights tormenting Wile E. Coyote. That is the proper spelling by the way, not Wiley.

Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner were created by animation genius Chuck Jones in 1948, and if you need to know anything about Jones, just ask my good friend Tommy Martin of Five Crowns fame. Wile E. Coyote is an eternal loser but the phrase "A for effort" must have been invented for him.

He is forever unpacking his latest "weapon" and tossing aside the box, totally convinced that this time it'll work, which it won't. No matter how many traps he sets or how many goofy machines and weapons he tries, the Roadrunner is going to cruise by like a flash and disappear like the wind. Wile E. doesn't get it and he doesn't care. Never mind that his gizmos come down on his head, blow up in his face or drag him over a cliff. Doesn't matter … he's coming back for more.

And that just leaves "beep beep" versus "meep meep." That classic sound effect was actually recorded by a Warner Brothers animator named Paul Julian, not by the voice of WB cartoons, Mel Blanc. Whenever Julian was on a deadline, he would rush around the Warner lot and shout "beep beep" to get past people.

An audio engineer thought it would make a great sound effect for the Roadrunner and recorded it one day and the rest is history. Julian was asked a thousand times over the years if he was saying "beep beep" or "meep meep," but would never say.

I happen to be a "meep meep" person. If you don't believe me, go to You Tube and check out any Roadrunner cartoon. It is definitely, absolutely "meep meep." Can you find this kind of information anywhere else? Not that I am aware of.

So there you have it. Coyotes in TeWinkle Park, Wile E. Coyote and the beep-meep conundrum. A little knowledge can go a long way. Sort of. I gotta go.

PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at

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