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Fish and Game Q&A: What to do with pesky coyotes?

December 23, 2010 |  1:19 pm

Coyote sightings in and around urban areas have become common. In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: For the past 10 months, our neighborhood in Encinitas has been overrun by coyotes. Who can we work with to mitigate the situation before someone gets hurt? (Ken S.)

Answer: Coyotes and other wildlife cannot and should not be removed just because there may appear to be too many in a community. If they are congregating, the problem may be that your neighbors are being careless with food and garbage, which serve as attractants. Coyotes play an important role in the ecosystem by helping to keep rodent populations under control. They are by nature fearful of humans.

Coyotes primarily hunt rodents and rabbits for food but will take advantage of whatever is available, including garbage, pet food and domestic animals. If coyotes are given access to human food and garbage, their behavior changes. They lose caution and fear and may cause property damage or threaten human safety. When this happens and they threaten humans or begin preying on domestic livestock or pets, they may be killed.

Relocating a problem coyote is not an option because it only moves the problem to someone else’s neighborhood.

The best thing you can do as an individual is to make sure that you remove pet food and water containers at night, secure your garbage and don’t provide any areas of shelter. Try to educate your neighbors about this, too. Without food, water and shelter, your property will be less appealing and the coyotes may move on.

Here’s the bottom line -- coyotes may appear to reside and be prevalent in your area, but this isn’t a crime as they are natural predators. Problems occur when people don’t follow the suggestions above and the animals lose their fear of humans and begin threatening people and their pets and livestock. When that happens the animals may need to be destroyed, and we want to avoid that situation.

If all else fails and the animals become a threat, contact the wildlife biologist in your local area (through DFG’s San Diego office, in your case) to discuss your options.

For more information on living with coyotes and other wildlife without conflicts, please check out our Keep Me Wild campaign at www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/.

Q: How far off the road must one be to begin hunting or to shoot at an animal? I see guys hunting ditches just off the road for pheasants all the time. Also, what constitutes a "road" for this purpose? (Michael O., Woodland)

A: According to DFG Lt. Todd Tognazzini, there are several laws that apply to what you describe. The U.S. Forest Service calls for staying off the roadway, and this includes the adjacent "right of way" areas such as the road shoulder or those areas where service vehicles would travel. County ordinances often define the distance allowed from a public roadway where a firearm may be discharged, and it is usually around 150 feet. This can be highly variable, though, so I suggest you check with the county sheriff for the area where you’ll be hunting to find out.

It is always unlawful to negligently discharge a firearm and the California Penal Code, Section 374(c), also prohibits the discharge of a firearm from or upon or along a public road or highway. Definitions for "road" and "roadway" can be found in sections 527 and 530 of the California Penal Code.

Q: More and more anglers are using hoop nets to "catch-and-release" bat rays and large sharks. The hoop nets are not being used for catching fish -- the fish are hooked by rod and reel. Hoop nets are then used to pull big fish up onto the piers. The problem is that the smaller hoop nets are sometimes insufficient for landing the big batties. Is it legal to use a hoop net larger than 36 inches if unbaited and used only for such purposes? ( Ken J., Lodi)

A: Yes, the hoop net as you are describing it is being used as a "landing net" and not a typical hoop net as used for lobster. According to Tognazzini, a landing net has a minimum diameter of 18 inches and no maximum diameter. There is no specific legal definition of a landing net. The only difference between a landing net and a dip net is mesh size, but there is no legal requirement on mesh size either. As long as it is only being used as a landing net, it would be legal.

If you have a question you would like to see answered in this column, e-mail it to CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

Photo: Coyote sightings in and around urban areas have become common. Credit: Michael Seraphin / Colorado Division of Wildlife

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