San Dimas residents are used to seeing all matter of wildlife in the foothills and even in their backyard. Yet for many people living within the San Gabriel Valley, the coyotes are just a little too close for comfort.
Coyotes are not the neighbors Hercules Goes expected to get when he moved from Pasadena to San Dimas last fall.
“This is definitely something new to me,” Goes said.
He had been living in the city for less than six months when his Jack Russell Terrier was attacked by a coyote twice within the same week during a routine walk around the neighborhood.
Goes can recall three more encounters with coyotes aside from the attacks and has since taken extra safety precautions.
“I no longer walk my dog at nighttime, although I have encountered coyotes during daylight around 8:30 a.m.,” he said. “I also always carry a broom stick with me and a flashlight if it’s getting late.”
The growing frequency of coyote sightings and interactions over the last few years has raised safety concerns for families, pets and property.
“If it were up to me, I’d have signage on every street leading into San Dimas informing people of the coyote danger,” resident Sue Glasgow said. “Right next to those ‘No parking between 2 to 4 a.m. on city streets’ signs.”
Glasgow is a 63-year San Dimas native with a love for wildlife, but she’s also observed the changes that have occurred over the years. “Coyotes are smart and are now a population that has realized they are perfectly safe inside the cities. They have food sources that are easy and plentiful,” she said.
Coyotes have become a popular topic of discussion on Nextdoor, the online social platform that helps neighbors communicate. Many residents have posted warnings about their frequent interactions with coyotes in and around San Dimas.
“This isn’t a San Dimas problem. It’s not an L.A County problem. It’s not a California problem. It’s a national problem. The [coyote] population has just exploded over the last couple of years,” former San Dimas City Manager Kenneth Duran said during an informal public meeting about the Coyote Management Plan in October 2019.
The Coyote Management Plan, or CMP, is the first ever for the City of San Dimas. Local city officials hoped to make effective strides with the adoption of the plan. The plan is outlined in a 5-tier proposition, created on the basis of public education, enforcement and reporting, which includes a partnership with experts at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, local Humane Society and Los Angeles County.
Finding ways to effectively manage coyote interactions within residential communities has been easier said than done, as community responses on the issue have been diverse and scientists are still actively learning about these animals.
The CMP is ultimately reliant on community members to report coyote sightings and interactions to city officials who will then send a specialist to assess the situation if needed.
Nicolette Drulias, San Dimas Public Information Officer, enters the coyote sightings reported to the city into the California Coyote Cacher system. She credits the CMP for an increase in public knowledge about coyotes and an increase in reporting of sightings.
“The biggest benefit has been a lot of education,” Drulias said. “For the people that call in and that we speak to, it helps that they get a call back from a biologist, someone that can really answer their questions.”
Some residents see the CMP as a reactive response rather than a proactive one and will often suggest trapping and relocating the coyotes elsewhere. However, city officials work within county and state regulations which—for financial, environmental and legal reasons—hinder that proposition from being a tangible possibility.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations, it’s illegal to relocate wildlife to an unfamiliar environment because it not only poses a threat to the wellbeing of the animals but also to the ecosystem already in place. Coyotes play an important role within ecosystems and help to regulate the populations of other common wildlife like skunks, raccoons and opossums.
Adaptive and natural coyote behavior is not only to blame for their urban appearances, so is human behavior. People can, whether purposely or unintentionally, provoke wildlife behavior by providing resources like food, water and shelter. Being conscious of picking up fallen fruit, sealing trash cans, removing outside pet food and refraining from feeding feral cats are all small efforts that can help combat the problem. This includes doing something about sources of water like fountains, pet bowls and pools.
It’s also vital to be aware of what home and neighborhood features could be providing habituated coyotes a place to take cover such as decks, sheds and parks, to name a few.
Although the CMP is not a solution, it provides the framework to guide community members and authorities to identify an appropriate course of action when it comes to coyotes.
“We try to do as much as we can as far as creating the plan and knowing that this is an issue,” Drulias said. “We are not ignoring it by any means.”
To learn more about the Coyote Management Plan and how to protect yourself, families and pets, visit https://sandimasca.gov/coyote-management-plan/.
If you or someone you know has witnessed a coyote sighting or attack, it is encouraged to contact local authorities and report the incident directly to the Coyote Reporting Service line at (909) 542-2501 or by email at [email protected], as well as the University of California Coyote Cacher© at https://ucanr.edu/sites/CoyoteCacher/.