It was 2AM. I was at a stoplight waiting for a green light. Displayed in bright lights in front of me as if on stage, a coyote stood in the middle of the intersection. He was slight with thin, unnaturally long legs and a piercing gaze. He looked like a Dingo/Queensland Heeler/German Shepherd mix except for his bright yellow eyes, long pointed ears and bushy tail, which definitively put him in a class outside of Fidoâ€™s. Despite a 5,000 pound vehicle directly in front of him, he was not frightened and nonchalantly continued to lower his head to eat something off a white paper wrapper. A honk was futile. Since there were no cars in sight, I threw my car into park and got out to scare him. Never having confronted a coyote before, I let out the most coyote sounding howl I could imagine and waved my hands in the air. He stopped chewing immediately, glared at me for about 5 seconds, decided I was crazy and then took off running up the grassy embankment. Apparently, heâ€™s not the only one who likes late night Del Taco chicken soft tacos (with secret sauce). Stunned, I picked up the empty wrapper and got back into my car.
I had never thought about the urban coyote until then. Besides proving that he was indeed a nocturnal lone â€œhunter,â€ this North American native did not remind me of what I had read about the coyote. He wasnâ€™t aggressive, actually he seemed quite affable. He didnâ€™t appear to be the sneaky â€œtricksterâ€ so often read about in Native American folk tales. He didnâ€™t seem like a threat. I know coyotes are clever hunters often scanning the sky for birds that fly circles over dead animals and that they choose one mate for life. Iâ€™ve heard coyotes howling in the distance and have seen them in desert areas of Arizona and New Mexico but I never expected to see one in the middle of a city in California.
Recently, more than 30 sightings of coyotes have occurred in the Hollywood area near the intersection of Fairfax and Hollywood Blvd. This is a pretty affluent area; then again it is not far from Runyon Canyon Park. It wouldnâ€™t be too strange to see a coyote here, unlike â€œHalâ€ the curious coyote found in Manhattanâ€™s Central Park in 2006. However, local residents are not very excited about these guests and secure themselves by locking their pets and children inside. According to NC Times, â€œSome people even go to the lengths of calling 911. However, the Los Angeles animal control officers will not trap them unless the animals appear to be hurt, distressed or are attacking pets. Unfortunately, the coyotes trapped by the city are then killed. Private companies can be called but coyotes are also then killed.â€
Coyote attacks on people are rare. According to CA Department of Fish & Game, the last human to be killed by a coyote was a child in the Los Angeles area in 1980. In comparison, over 300 people have been killed by domestic dogs from 1979 to the late 1990â€™s (U.S. Humane Society). While one person gets bitten by a coyote per year in California, 3 million children are bitten by dogs every year in the U.S. People should be more concerned about the dangers of domestic dogs than coyotes.
Humans are to blame for the appearance of the urban coyote. While other populations of animals are shrinking, the coyote is actually increasing in numbers. The main reason: keen intelligence and adaptability. Coyotes can easily survive in new surroundings by adapting their behavior. Usually extremely fearful of humans, coyotes become more comfortable around us when people feed them. They would rather have an easy meal than expend energy in a hunt. Coyotes are omnivores eating almost anything they can find including your dog/cat food left outside on the porch and discarded drive-thru items found in the street. Besides human encroachment on their habitat and adaptability, the other reason the coyote is on the rise is the downfall of the wolf, the primary competitor of the coyote. Since the 19th century and until 1965, ranchers and government agencies basically exterminated the wolf. With declined wolf populations, coyote numbers boom.
Although coyotes pose very little threat to humans, they are wild animals and should be respected. If you happen to be in Hollywood and encounter an urban coyote, wave your arms and make loud noises. Back away slowly but do not turn your back or run (unless you can run 40 mph and clear an 8 foot fence). Most likely the encounter will be like the one I had: an unthreatening chance meeting and a rare opportunity to see a beautiful, misunderstood animal up-close.
For more information on coyotes:
WORLD - CITY LIVING
Copyright © 2010 E Jo
The Urban Coyote: The true Hollywood story!
Copyright © 2010 E Jo
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