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Wildlife officials authorize killing of coyotes in Griffith Park after bite incidents

September 21, 2009 |  2:36 pm

Griffithcoyote

Two recent incidents in which people were bitten by coyotes in Griffith Park have caused wardens to take an unfortunate step: dispatching U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife services trappers to kill some of the park's coyotes.

Although the bites occurred weeks apart, both were reported to the California Department of Fish & Game within a short period of time. The first bite occurred in late August, but wildlife authorities learned of it from Los Angeles County health officials only last week.

The second bite happened Wednesday, when a man apparently napping near the park's Travel Town section said he awoke to find a coyote biting his foot. He was not seriously injured, wildlife biologist Kevin Brennan of the Fish and Game department told The Times. 

In response to the incidents, USDA trappers shot and killed seven of the park's coyotes, owing to a policy that coyotes should be captured and killed only in the instance of an imminent threat to public safety.  "Somebody getting bitten is an imminent threat," Brennan told The Times. 

But, our colleague Tony Barboza notes in his article on the subject, authorities do not know if the coyote or coyotes that bit the two park visitors were among the seven killed. (Had the bites been reported in a more timely manner, the victims could have been swabbed to determine the DNA profile of the coyote attacker.  But since DNA evidence was unavailable for either biting incident, no testing can be conducted to determine whether the attacking animal or animals was among the dead.)

While coyote-on-human attacks are relatively rare, the animals often attack pets like cats and small dogs.  (Singer Jessica Simpson's Maltese-poodle mix was recently snatched by a coyote while Simpson watched, horrified.)  Last month, Yorba Linda resorted to hiring a professional trapper to do away with the coyotes that have been entering backyards and making snacks of dogs and cats.  The Times offers these tips for those who live in close proximity to coyotes:

What can I do to keep coyotes out of my yard?

Food and water lure coyotes. Don't leave pet food or water outside. Cover your compost, and keep trash in clean containers with tight-fitting lids. Keep barbecue grills clean, limit the use of bird feeders,and pick up fallen fruit. Install motion-sensitive lighting and coyote-proof fencing if they continue to be pests.

How can I keep my children and pets safe?

Never allow young children to play outside unsupervised. Don't leave pets outdoors unattended, especially cats and small dogs. If you must keep them outside, confine your animals in sturdy kennels at least 6 feet high.

What should I do if a coyote approaches my home?

Immediately take pets and small children inside. Then make loud noises -- perhaps by banging pots and pans together -- or spray the animal with a garden hose, or throw rocks toward it. That probably will drive the coyote away and help it retain its natural wariness of humans.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A coyote in Griffith Park in 2007. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

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