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Coyotes Prowling Streets of Santa Monica

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By Jorge Casuso

September 7, 2012 -- Coyotes were sighted early Tuesday and Wednesday morning in Santa Monica, according to police, and posters for missing pets have been cropping up in the north side of the city.

Three coyotes were caught on camera near Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center near Wilshire Boulevard and 16th Street early Tuesday morning, and two coyotes were sighted early Wednesday morning, said Sgt. Richard Lewis.

"They were headed back home," said Sgt. Richard Lewis, the police department spokesman, saying the coyotes were seen headed north.

A resident who lives near the area where the wild dogs were sighted told The Lookout she had coyotes travelling up Wilshire as early as 11 p.m. as well as in neighborhoords north of the boulevard.

"I have seen more and more posters about missing cats as well as the remains of some while walking my dog during early-morning hours," said Susan Marraffa, who lives near 17th Street and California Avenue.

Last year Santa Monica Police issued a bulletin after at least 14 coyote sightings were reported, and the deaths of two family pets were attributed to coyote attacks. ("Urban Coyotes on the Prowl in Santa Monica," October 19, 2011)

The sightings of coyotes -- which ranged throughout the city -- have been attributed to the city's proximity to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the country’s largest (153,000 acres) urban national park.

Most coyotes will stay within three square miles or so of their birthplace and will leave safe mountainous confines for urban neighborhoods to forage, driven by the scarcity of available food following drought and fires, police said.

“Coyotes have a wide territorial range and will go farther south in search of food and water,” Lewis told The Lookout last year. “It doesn’t leave them as much time to return to shelter, so they’re frequently seen in early morning hours.”

Lewis said that coyotes are truly adaptable animals that don’t shy away from urban areas, if the “hunting” is good and can easily hop a five-foot tall fence.

Residents can take the following precautions to keep coyotes off their properties:

  • Secure garbage can lids.

  • Rinse bottles for recycling and keep compost bins covered well.

  • Spray ammonia in trashcans several times a week and consider motion-activated devices such as lights or sprinklers.

  • Don’t feed pets or leave pet food outside – even birdseed – or bring their bowls in at night, even in a fenced yard.

Most importantly, small dogs and cats should not be left outside at night and young children should not be left unattended in areas coyotes have been seen. A three-year-old Glendale girl was dragged from her driveway by a coyote and killed in 1981.

And if you find yourself confronted by a coyote, respond aggressively by making noise, stomping your feet or throwing something at them, police said.

Don’t stare coyotes in the eyes since, like domesticated dogs, they will take that as a challenge and don’t corner them, police said. If you spot a coyote, call 911.

For more information on coyotes in urban areas, visit the SMPD website, which includes a reference guide with tips on how to coexist with local wildlife.

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