By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Forest wildlife sightings have become more frequent recently, with the most often reported sightings coyotes and bears. Some mountain residents are often careless with how they maintain their food, trash and garbage disposal. That carelessness often attracts the animals, as it gives them easy access to food, which is also unhealthy for them.
It is said “a fed coyote is a dead coyote,” as it may need to be exterminated for its aggressive behaviors in the future, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The proper way to dispose of trash on the mountain has several steps. First, remove sources of water that might attract wild animals, such as ponds, especially during periods of drought, as drought sometimes forces the animals out of the dry backcountry.
Second, it is important to have the proper type of locking lid garbage cans and to use a bungie cord or container to prevent the trash can from being knocked over onto the street.
Third, it is also essential to only put trash out on the morning of pickup day, as when put out on the street the night before, the odor attracts these nocturnal animals to the trash cans. Trash cans, when not properly maintained since mandated trash pickup was established, have attracted these animals into the residential areas, as they learn the pickup schedule of unsecured trash, so it is incumbent on residents to follow the trash code.
Eradication of coyotes from the forest is not the answer. Coyotes are an important link in our forest’s natural ecosystem and food chain. Their link is to keep rodent populations lowered, since that is their main natural food source. However, when coyotes become aware of easy access to human food, since it is not part of their natural diet, it changes their behavior. Human food doesn’t fulfill their dietary requirements, either.
Coyotes are naturally fearful of humans but, when they see them as providing their food source, they lose that caution and may threaten human safety if they are hungry and perceive humans as being in the way of getting fed.
They may attack small pets and damage property to get their food. It has been said some coyotes have recently been eyeing pets on leashes being walked by their owners at sunset and early morning hours, since daylight hours are shorter this time of year. Pets that are on a time walking schedule are not aware that early morning and early evening are prime coyote hunting times, so those walking schedules may need to be adjusted for their own safety.
Discouraging coyotes from your yard and neighborhood is important. Do not leave pets out overnight, even large dogs, unless inside a completely enclosed reinforced pen or run and bring their food and water inside overnight as it attracts coyotes.
If you have chickens or rabbits, they need to be in a secured, preferably electrified, enclosure to discourage coyotes and other predators. It is important to bring bird feeders in at night as they attract rodents and rodents attract coyotes. This is what everyone in a neighborhood on the mountain needs to do, as anyone’s neighbors can attract coyotes to an area and, if not satisfied, the coyotes will find other food sources in the same area, sometimes small dogs and cats.
Coyotes hunt in packs and will lure a dog from a yard into the pack’s den where it will be attacked and consumed. These are wild animals that have excellent hunting instincts for survival and, although considered nocturnal, they are also very active at dusk and dawn. Coyotes that live in areas in contact with humans often have some pack members that are active during the daylight.
Discouraging coyotes from your area is not difficult. Along with securing your trash, you can install motion sensitive lighting around your home, which encourages them to go elsewhere during the nighttime. Make sure your landscaping doesn’t give them places from which they can hide and attack. Of course, do not feed wildlife to encourage them to come to your property to photograph them, now that you have night lighting, as that is illegal. Attracting one type of animal attracts all wildlife in the food chain, including mountain lions and bears.
It is important not to leave small children or animals unattended outside, especially in areas near wildlands. Coyotes are especially active in the early spring when they are protecting their pups and teaching them how to hunt.
If a person notices they are being followed by a coyote, there are several ways to discourage them and get home safely. First, make loud noises, such as blowing a whistle and yelling to attract attention and possibly help. Second, throw rocks in the direction of the coyote, hitting near it, although hitting it directly at first may enrage it. Do not try to tame it, as it is a wild predatory carnivore.
If a person is attacked by a coyote, it is, of course, essential to get immediate medical attention and to contact law enforcement by calling 911 and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s regional office at Ontario (909) 484-0167, or see their website at www.keepmewild.org. for more information.
It is illegal to intentionally feed coyotes, bears, raccoons and other wild animals in these mountain communities. If a neighbor is doing so, let them know the danger of attracting wild animals into the community. (Contributed photo)