Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I have been living in Los Angeles for a few weeks. My residency has been in Silverlake. Early on I was told that it was a wild part of LA (a strange concept for a city) but in my time there, I heard and saw numerous animals.

One that I did not see initially but heard was a coyote. The distinctive "yip" of the Yote was unmistakable and new. I was thrilled to hear such a call living in a city.

However, all of my infatuation with things wild ended last night as a pack of up to 6 coyotes attacked and killed my cousin's cat who was outside. I am not a cat person, however this cat was a joy to be around. Herman was a lovable cat who also loved to be outdoors and in Silverlake, that was trouble.

I am not here to castigate the coyotes. They were doing what all wild animals do, hunt prey, strength in numbers and that is that. What I am surprised about is the apparent utter lack of animal control of those wild animals so close in proximity to humanity. We do a very good job in managing (or at least corralling) wildlife throughout this country but packs of coyotes use Griffith Park to hunt in Los Angeles and nothing seems to be done.

The town of Arcadia recently instituted a trap and kill program for coyotes. Historically, humans have tried their best to kill off the coyote but he is a persistent animal. I read recently that during the height of the killing in the early 1900s, upwards of 80,000 coyotes were killed and are still around today. I am not advocating a mass extinction of the species and certainly not because they killed a cat I was fond of. Every time a bear is killed because of a garbage addiction, I am quick to blame the humans or often, the police who overreact to the bear.

However, I do think LA animal control should try to be more proactive in terms of discouragement or even selective killings when warranted. People shouldn't simply "keep their pets indoors" all the time, even with a fenced in yard. Hazing only seems to temporarily work:

In that same article, case studies suggest that trapping and removal is very effective. I think the plan laid out in the article is a sensible one (education coupled with monitoring and population reduction if necessary).

I, of course, realize that LA and California as a whole are in dire straights and can't necessarily marshal the resources to fight this problem. Just yesterday, park closures, staff layoffs and the like were announced. Resources are scarce and this is probably very low on the priority list. I just think a discussion, like the folks in Arcadia are having, is warranted.


  1. Let me preface this by saying that I think it's really sad about your cousin's cat. That aside, I think you bring up an important issue here that touches on a lot of wider environmental issues. However, it's one that I have to disagree with you about.

    The issues of animal control when they come into conflict with humans is just one part of a self-destructive attitude our society has that we are the most important organisms on this planet and that the natural world is something that needs to be tamed and controlled. This is just one cause of the severe environmental problems we face today. We need to start learning how to live within our ecosystems instead of changing our ecosystems to fit our lives.

  2. Many thanks for the very insightful comment!

    To be clear, I am not advocating a mass extinction of the species or even lots o' killings. What I am advocating for is more of a hands on management approach to a very immediate problem of animal control.

    I agree that we should no longer shape the environment to our whims. In fact, a large part of this coyote problem is our fault for taking out the higher predators on the food chain. However, in LA, there IS a very real coyote problem that should be addressed because humans aren't moving and coyotes are only breeding in greater numbers.

  3. I totally get what you're saying, Pete. I just don't think anything should be done with the coyotes. I think we need to accept the natural world around us. I think people who are willing to takes the risks associated with living in this area are okay and those that are not should move to a more suitable habitat for their lifestyle. I know that's simplistic and not taking into account the feasible economics of population shifts, but I do think we need to radically change our philosophy on human-nature interactions.

    By the way, Pete, I love having these types of discussions with you. The art of debate is dying in this country, devolving into who can shout the loudest, and I believe we tend to have true gentlemanly conversations.


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