This story was originally published Sept. 8, 2011.
The Calabasas Environmental Commission on Tuesday voiced unanimous support for a new coyote management plan that emphasizes public education on how to reduce human-coyote encounters and stipulates that lethal action against the wild animals should be a last resort.
The is scheduled to cast a final vote on the new piece of local legislation sometime in October.
The city's previous stance on coyotes allowed any homeowner to phone in a coyote sighting to the city, which then determined where a trap could be placed.
If the city did find an appropriate location, typically in open space, it would contact Los Angeles County's Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures Pest Management Division, which would make the final call on whether to place a trap.
The City Council recently imposed a temporary ban on trapping until it could approve a new plan.
Since October 2003, the city of Calabasas has received 36 requests for coyote abatement, according to a city staff report. No one has ever been bitten by a coyote in the city, the report said.
Overall, 48 coyote-related attacks have been recorded in California between 1998 and 2003, the staff report stated. The California Department of Fish and Game reported that an average of one person a year is bitten by a coyote and that there are only two recorded cases of fatal coyote attacks in North America.
The city's process of reporting coyotes raised concern with resident Randi Feilich Hirsch, who said one of her neighbor's gardeners requested coyote abatement when he spotted a coyote but had no interaction with the animal.
"We had to have a definition on what is the threshold," Feilich Hirsch said.
At a July 13 City Council meeting, she and several homeowners, as well as animal activists, told the council that they opposed coyote trapping.
The council enacted the temporary ban on coyote trapping and requested a new set of standards for dealing with coyotes.
The new draft management plan states that lethal action against a coyote would only be taken if the animal bites a human, and even then a review of the attack's circumstances would be conducted before reaching out to the county.
"We have to let our community know that we're prepared in case," said Commissioner Julie Shy-Sobol, who reminded those in attendance that coyote attacks are rare.
Alex Farassati, the city's environmental services manager, said the definition of an attack on a human could be even further specified before the plan goes before the City Council. He said that the document would also be reviewed by Cynthia Reyes, executive director of the California Wildlife Center.
The new plan also lists facts about coyotes and tips on how to minimize encounters with them. Whether or not the new plan is passed, that information will be posted on a coyote information page, available from the city's website, Farassati said.
The coyote information page should be ready in about a month, and brochures would be likely to follow, he said.
The new plan also lists facts about coyotes and why they would hang out in areas populated by humans. Some of the reasons include:
- Increased access to food
- Increased access to water
- Increased potential shelter
- Increased exposure to people—"Regular interaction between coyotes and people without negative consequences encourages habituation or increases comfort levels with human contact. People are or may be disregarded as a potential source of danger."
The new coyote management plan also includes a section about "hazing," methods of reducing encounters with coyotes. Those include shouting, throwing objects and spraying water at the animal. The document states that human behavior shapes animal behavior.
The plan stated that coyotes tend to attack domesticated animals such as cats as dogs. About three to five pets a week are brought to Animal Urgent Care hospital in Orange County, according to a city staff report.
"Off‐leash and unattended dogs and unattended outside cats attract coyotes," the report said.
Farasatti said it is ultimately up to residents to practice hazing.
Reyes said it's important for homeowners to play their part to ensure coyotes don't attack humans.
"Every possible option should be taken into account before making the decision to take a coyote out," she said.