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Commentary: Become aware of urban coyotes

September 15, 2012|By Christy Roget

"You see, things were not always this way, recalled Kathy Anderson, a retired teacher and lifetime resident of Costa Mesa. "You could hear them in the distance, but never, ever, did they encroach upon our town. They were truly wild."

Fast forward several decades later, and they roam our streets at night and hang out in our yards.

Everyone knows they exist. Most of us are unaware of how many there are. Some of us know of them only through a cartoon character. And, unfortunately, too many of us become aware of the problem when it is already too late.

I am talking about coyotes. After two days of intensive care, Lucky, my 20-pound dog, passed on as a result of his encounter with a coyote in my backyard in Costa Mesa.

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Since then, I have become curious about these highly adaptable creatures and have been determined to find out if I was the only one who didn't know that they will jump or dig their way into our yards, kill our dogs and eat our cats. It was during this process that I met Anderson and many others with similar concerns.

As I conducted a survey on 85 houses within our community, collecting stories and testimonials, I found that nearly all respondents have or have had pets in the past. Sixty-eight percent of them had experienced the loss of one or several pets to coyotes (33% personally, 35% through a friend or relative, and 21% through both).

There were stories like the one about a 38-pound dog named Missy, who just barely survived a coyote attack and there were reports of coyotes snatching dogs off owners leashes on Irvine Avenue and 17th Street while on a walk in broad daylight. Then there was the testimony of a neighbor who told me that a coyote holding the family cat's body charged at her husband after he chased it down the street.

These anecdotes suggest that coyotes have become too comfortable in our communities and are not afraid of approaching humans anymore. But, surprisingly, more than half of the people I interviewed were not aware of the danger that coyotes can be to pets, and almost nobody knew that they had attacked children.

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