URBAN WILDLIFE – Coyote management plan altered to include trapping
by Mark McDermott
The City of Manhattan Beach is prepared to trap and euthanize coyotes who behave aggressively within city limits. The City Council Tuesday night amended its Coyote Management and Response Plan to authorize the hiring of a trapper.
The action was approved in a unanimous vote. Before trapping commences, however, staff will conduct an environmental analysis of its impact, which is required by state law, and estimated to cost about $50,000.
The council in February had directed staff to begin the analysis in order to add a selective trapping program to the coyote plan.
George Gabriel, assistant to the city manager, told the council that while the current plan enables the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to trap coyotes who attack a human, additional trapping capabilities will allow the City to pursue coyotes who are engaging in unusually aggressive behavior, such as attacking pets.
“It’s not a program that is meant to trap at first instance or trap at all cost,” Gabriel said. “It’s meant to do it on a selective basis, and doing so in a manner that is trying to account for a coyote that is more aggressive in nature, versus a coyote that is engaging in normal behavior — normal behavior meaning bouncing around in foliage, and so forth.”
Under the new plan, the Manhattan Beach Police Department’s animal control division will investigate reports of aggressive coyote behavior before the trapper is called in.
Councilperson Joe Franklin asked MBPD Chief Rachel Johnson what the threshold would be to determine when a coyote is potentially dangerous.
“Let’s say a coyote decides to take up residence in your backyard or behind your wall and it’s in close proximity to a home… So the homeowner discovers it, and then you come out,” Franklin said. “Is that a basis, the fact that it’s so close to a home, maybe even in the yard, to warrant trapping?”
“We’re going to need to investigate the full import of why that coyote is there, but the fact alone that a coyote is in someone’s backyard doesn’t give us enough information to decide if trapping is appropriate or not,” Johnson said. “If there are food sources there, whether that’s a bird feeder that attracts squirrels, which a coyote could feed on, a water source for the coyote, pet food that’s left unattended, or pets that reside in that home — all those things may be reasons why that coyote is in that backyard. And so those are normal coyote behaviors, not that it’s become habituated to humans. It’s seeking food and water in that backyard. So we need to do an investigation to determine what the reasons were that the coyote was in that backyard and determine if the coyote has become so habituated to humans that it is no longer fearing them.”
Coyotes have become an increasing concern among residents following a large uptick in sightings and incidents. Last year, 70 sightings were reported in the city, after only 84 sightings combined over the previous six years. Three predations on pets were confirmed last year, as well as 18 unconfirmed reports of attacks on pets. Only one confirmed and 13 unconfirmed predations on pets occurred over the previous six years.
A wildlife expert hired by the City last year advised that trapping can be counterproductive in that it has unintentional impacts on coyote pack dynamics — often, an older leader of a pack, which has ceased reproducing, will be targeted, and its death can lead to increased populations as younger more reproductively active coyotes fill the void. But as sightings continued to increase, the Council decided to begin using selective trapping.
Councilperson David Lesser, while in support of the environmental study, was not convinced trapping was the correct approach.
“Namely there’s a reason why there are more coyotes here — It’s because there’s food and there are hiding spaces for them,” Lesser said. “The way that needs to be combated is in partnership with our public. There needs to be a more robust outreach than I think has been done so far. Even though I give staff huge credit for what they’ve done so far, I think more needs to be done.”
The rest of the council fully supported selective trapping.
“We’re not saying that we’re going to trap and euthanize every coyote spotted,” said Councilperson Amy Howorth.
“We need to keep trapping in our back pocket, and frankly, not be afraid to use it,” said Councilperson Steve Napolitano.
Gabriel asked residents to report all coyote sightings.
We encourage the public to report [sightings] to Animal Control and to utilize the City’s ‘Reach’ app for coyote sightings, as well,” Gabriel said.
Manhattan Beach Police Department Animal Control can be reached at (310) 802-5160 for more information and to report a sighting. If a coyote is posing an imminent threat to life, call 911. ER