WILDLIFE – Manhattan Beach prepares to begin selective coyote trapping
by Mark McDermott
Some coyotes who’ve been expanding their habitat into Manhattan Beach will be likely targeted and euthanized as a result of the City Council on Tuesday expanding its approach to include the hiring of a coyote trapper.
The council reviewed the City’s Coyote Management Plan, which so far has focused on non-lethal means of addressing the increase in coyote sightings that have taken place over the past year. The City has launched a public education effort intended to reduce sources of food available to coyotes. According to data collected by the City, coyote sightings increased from just four in 2019 to 13 in 2020, 23 in 2021, and 70 in 2022. Predations, meaning the killing of a pet, went from zero confirmed since 2018 to three last year, along with 18 reported but unconfirmed predations.
George Gabriel, assistant to the city manager, said that the increase in sightings could in part be due to the City’s increased attention to coyotes and outreach to the community.
“It is a trend that is going on in the region…I can’t say with strict determination that there is a definitive increase,” he said. “That being said, we do know that Torrance has certainly had multiple conversations about coyotes, and it’s in response to the community there. Rancho Palos Verdes has also had very significant discussions. And so by virtue of proximity, maybe you can draw the conclusion that there is an increased presence.”
Councilmember Joe Franklin said the City had to be proactive to ward off the possibility of an attack on a human. City staff confirmed there have been at least three attacks on humans in Southern California.
“I don’t want to have to talk to the family where somebody gets attacked,” Franklin said.
A wildlife specialist hired by the City last year studied the coyotes and determined that two packs, one from Redondo Beach and another from El Segundo, have expanded their territories into Manhattan Beach. But the specialist, along with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists, suggested trapping would have negligible impact since other coyotes would simple fill the void created by the capture of a coyote in an area — and in some instances, this could also result in younger coyotes, with more likelihood of reproducing, coming to Manhattan Beach.
But Franklin said he’d seen evidence of predations firsthand, including a coyote trotting through his neighborhood with half a cat carcass. He said he and also witnessed a coyote near a group of children playing soccer at Pacific Elementary.
“So I think we have the evidence that they’re here and it’s where they haven’t been before,” Franklin said. “I support the trapping option. That’s our job. Our job is to look out for the welfare of our residents, and this is an escalating problem that needs to be addressed.”
Councilmember David Lesser said his own family had lost a pet due to either coyote or racoon predation, but that all studies indicate that trapping is not effective. He suggested more public outreach. Councilmember Amy Howorth said she was torn, because lethal approaches such as in Torrance — where the City has run an extensive trapping program for three years — have not proven effective in reducing the coyote population.
“But in Huntington Beach, you know, a toddler was attacked,” she said. “So I am torn, but I don’t think that the trapping and euthanizing…actually solves the problem.”
Councilmember Richard Montgomery made a motion to continue the City’s current approach, with added public outreach, but it failed, two votes to three, with Lesser voting for the motion.
Mayor Steve Napolitano said that while he didn’t favor an extensive trapping program, he did want the City to add the possibility of trapping selectively in areas where sightings were rampant or a coyote engaged in aggressive behavior. Additionally, the City would need to perform a California Environmental Quality Act review of trapping, so Napolitano argued the council needed to approve of that option in order to more quickly move to trapping if needed.
“At this point, I’m not set on automatic trapping of coyotes,” he said. “But I am for having trapping in our back pocket…Trapping could be appropriate in the areas with the widest concentration of [coyotes] over by Mira Costa, and by the Village and see what we can decrease…So I would be in favor of having a limited trapping program as appropriate under consultation with a trapper to reduce the numbers that are here. And we’ll see what the results of that are — if it results in more [coyotes], we’ll find out.”
Howorth made a motion to include selective trapping. That motion passed, 4-1. City staff estimated a CEQA study would cost $30,000 to $50,000, but the mayor asked that costs be kept under $30,000. The trapper, if used, will be paid $300 per day. ER