By Nicole Vogt
La Habra Journal
Aproximately 100 concerned La Habra residents attended a town hall meeting concerning coyote attacks in residential areas. The event was hosted by OC Supervisor Shawn Nelson, and was part of a series of meetigs about coyotes in North Orange County cities.
“We never did this until we got lots of complaints out of Fullerton about coyote concerns,” Nelson said. “We were surprised how much desire there was to address this. Apparently, it’s a subject people wanted to talk about.”
Many of the residents shared stories of lost pets and close encounters with coyotes.
Based on mountainous location of La Habra, the area has been victim to coyote attacks since the 1960s. Recently, the encounters and attacks involving residents have grown at an alarming rate.
“I started to hear something change,” Nelson said. “There were more aggressive sightings, more people saying they’re seeing aggressive coyotes.”
One La Habra resident who lost a pet to a coyote attack in 2015 was Marie Whittington. Whittington said she let her dog our for 5 minutes before it was attacked. The coyote came back to her home after looking for remains and other small animals to feed on.
Whittington is one of many demanding action. “There are enough people here, they want something done,” Whittington continued. “No one is advocating that coyotes be killed or moved but we’re saying, ‘It’s different now.’”
Lt. Frasier of Orange County Animal Control explained coyotes usually avoid people and are active at night, however, it is not abnormal for them to appear during daytime.
If a coyote finds food and shelter in one neighborhood, they are more likely to return. Coyotes look for drainage pipes and ditches to find shelter in. Houses near these locations are more likely to see coyotes wandering the streets regularly.
“Coyotes have no natural predators,” Fraiser explained. “Their leading cause of death is car because of how often they’re on the streets.”
Fraiser explained rodents and small household pets are easy meals for coyotes. Unkept fruit trees, open garbage cans or litter on the street give coyotes easy access to uneaten food.
David Dodge, a volunteer for California Fish and Wildlife, recommended limiting residential opportunities coyotes have to find food, water or shelter anywhere near a home.
“Maintaining your plants is key” Dodge said. “You can’t give them places to hide in your bushes or in an area of overgrown plants.”
Hazing techniques like intimidating the coyotes or yelling loudly scare them off. Orange County Animal Control recommended purchasing miniature air instead of pepper spray when engaging in hazing techniques.
“We recommend community participation and responsible pet awareness,” Dodge explained. “We need every community educated so they understand.”
Orange County Animal Control continued to ask citizens to limit habitat resources, and call their service line for help.
“Myself and other people see (tonight) as a band-aid fix,” said Randy McDonald, a concerted La Habra citizen. “It is a growing problem that’s getting worse.”
California Fish and Wildlife hope to implement Wildlife Watch Program in La Habra. It holds to similar principles of Neighborhood Watch, but instead of eliminating crime, they eliminate wildlife. After initial success in Irvin, David Dodge and other members of his department are confident this is the solution for La Habra.
Dodge added “I’ve seen success in communities where residents want to do something, it works.”