By NICK DIAMANTIDES
A series of recent coyote sightings have caused some Long Beach residents to be alarmed. It is extremely rare for coyotes to attack humans, but the three or four instances of coyotes attacking small children in Southern California in the past 10 years are spurring homeowners to demand that city officials take steps to ensure that never happens here.
In the past few decades, coyotes all over the United States have been learning how to adapt to city environments. More recently, the populations of urban coyotes have been increasing. Small pets left outdoors at night are the most likely targets of the wild canines, which are also known to be attracted to pet food and garbage cans.
”There have been coyote attacks to our pet rabbits on December 19,” said Bixby Knolls resident Salomon Vargas. “Our two rabbits were killed and we notified the SPCA and animal control bureau, but they cannot do anything about it.” Vargas said the attacks happened on East 46th Street between Atlantic and Orange Avenues. He explained that his family allowed the rabbits to roam in the yard and the pets never wandered far because they were well fed. “One day we noticed one was missing, and the next day my uncle saw a coyote carrying off the second one in its mouth,” he said, adding that both rabbits were fully grown adults weighing five to 10 pounds each.
“Many coyotes have been spotted and people should be warned not to leave food out or their pets out at night as the coyotes can jump six-foot fences,” Vargas added. “The people at animal control told us that coyotes are protected by state law and they can’t do anything about it unless humans are actually threatened.”
Another resident, Harry Pope, said an animal that appeared to be a coyote crossbreed attacked one of his cats about two and a half months ago, and has since been seen by several of his neighbors. “I was on my enclosed porch in the backyard in the morning and saw it no more than 10 feet from where I was standing,” he said. “I was very startled because it was much larger than a normal sized coyote.”
Pope, who lives in close proximity to Bixby Road and Long Beach Boulevard, said the animal appeared to be half coyote and half German shepherd. He said it looked like it weighed between 80 and 100 pounds, with larger ears, a pointier snout and a bushier tail than a German shepherd.
“I scared it away, but it just ran around the house and came back,” he said. “I think it was looking for a way to exit the yard.” Pope lives in a 10-acre gated community that used to be the George Bixby Estate, but now has 34 single-family homes.
“After I scared it off, I called my wife and we went out to find our two cats,” Pope said, explaining that they found one of the felines unharmed, but the other one was not so lucky. The couple spotted the female cat up a tree, obviously injured and very traumatized. “She jumped from the tree on to the roof and I got a ladder and brought her down,” Pope said. “I took her to the veterinarian and she was treated for a broken shoulder blade.” The cat also had to be given pain medications and fed intravenously for three days.
“Our cat is much better now, but the large coyote is still roaming the area,” Pope said. “Several of my neighbors have seen it in the last few weeks and it even tried to attack a small dog that was being walked by its owner.”
He explained that the coyote appeared seemingly from out of nowhere and lunged at the dog that was on a leash. “The man who was walking the dog threw his coffee cup at it, and it ran off,” Pope said. “The problem with urban coyotes is that they are opportunists. They will grab a small pet and run off with it right in front of its owner if they get the chance.”
Pope said several normal sized coyotes have also been spotted roaming through his neighbors’ yards in recent months. “They seem to be coming from the river banks and the Virginia Country Club, which both have lots of open space and places for them to hide,” he said. “One of the people at Long Beach Animal Control even told me that recently a small, young coyote was struck by a car here in Long Beach.”
Pope and his neighbors have been sending emails to inform each other of coyote sightings and he has been encouraging them to also notify the Long Beach Animal Control Bureau. “They won’t do anything unless there are lots of sightings,” he said. “But I guess a lot of people have called to report the large coyote because now they are planning to trap it.”
According to Pope, an animal control sergeant informed him that he is looking for a place to set a trap for the animal. “It will be a cage trap that catches animals alive,” Pope said. “Once they catch it, they will probably take it to an undeveloped area far from here and release it.”
Phone calls made to the Long Beach Animal Control by the Signal Tribune were not immediately returned.
To report coyotes or other wild animals in your neighborhood, call (562) 570-7387 or go to www.longbeach.gov/acs/wildlife/report/default.asp.