News

Coyote menaces dogs in Arastradero Preserve

Some trails temporarily closed to dogs due to coyote encounters

An aggressive coyote that has challenged hikers with dogs at Palo Alto's Pearson-Arastradero Preserve has prompted open-space officials to temporarily close trails to dogs in the western side of the preserve.

The city released an advisory Monday (Sept. 13) after four visitors reported the encounters while hiking with their pets from May to September, according to Lester Hodgins, open space division supervising ranger.

The preserve is home to bobcats, mountain lions, snakes, coyotes and other wildlife, and a handful of sightings occur each year, according to preserve officials. But the recent coyote sightings have been described as "aggressive territorial" encounters.

The incidents occurred in the same area: two in May, one in June and one on Sept. 1. The trail was closed in May and reopened in July before recently being closed again, he said.

Hodgins said the coyote is likely a female with a den nearby. She would have given birth in April or May. For a protective female with pups, such behavior is not atypical against dogs. The coyote has not been aggressive to people who are present without a dog, he said.

The animal barked, growled or snapped at the dogs, coming from the side and from behind. One person yelled at the coyote and it departed, he said.

In an effort to protect both visitors and wildlife the following trails are temporarily closed to dogs: De Anza Trail, from the west entrance on Arastradero Road (near Alpine) to Meadowlark; Woodland Star Trail; Ohlone Trail; Bay Laurel Trail (see map).

Coyote sightings are relatively rare. The animals are usually shy of humans and run away, he said.

"We had thousands of visitors this summer and only six encounters, Two times the coyote was pacing a person," he said.

The coyote's protective behavior is a little late in the season, he said. Open space officials are consulting with a Fish & Game warden and will be talking to a biologist about when they could expect to open the trail. It could take another couple of months, Hodgins said.

Open space rangers are urging visitors to be aware of their surroundings while using the preserve and observe the following safety guidelines: Be aware that coyotes are more active when feeding and protecting their young; do not attempt to approach the animal; do not try to feed or attempt to tame the animal; do keep children close. If followed, make loud noises. If this fails, throw rocks. Fight back if attacked.

Some people have also reported mountain lion sightings and rangers recommend the following: Do not hike alone; do not approach a lion; do not run from a lion; do not crouch down or bend over; do keep children close; do all you can to appear larger; fight back if attacked.

Rangers are asking visitors to report any notable incidents to staff at 650-329-2423 or in an emergency, call Palo Alto Police Communications 24 hours a day at 650-329-2413.

Comments

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Posted by ResponsibleDogOwner
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 15, 2010 at 10:49 am

Curious to know if the dogs were leashed, or running off lead.
And, if leashed, on the *legal* 6 foot leash, or on a flexi-lead, which gives more freedom to the dog but little control to the handler.
If the dogs were leashed, I am quite surprised, and alarmed, that coyotes would approach a human and a dog in such close proximity.


Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 15, 2010 at 11:35 am

Cool! I'm heading up there Sunday after I'm done camping in Juana Briones park on Saturday night. Hopefully I'll see one.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2010 at 11:41 am

Perhaps it's possible to keep the coyotes from becoming more aggressive this way. An animal control officer told me about the increased aggression from coyotes towards hikers, cyclists and those with their dogs - that was about 6 years ago. Makes sense to suspend use of some trails to keep this situation from getting worse.


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Posted by who's menacing who?
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 15, 2010 at 11:51 am

Are the coyotes menacing the dogs or are the dogs menacing the coyotes? Why are dogs allowed in a nature preserve anyway?


1 person likes this
Posted by TooManyCoyotes
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Coyotes are also preying on cats and small dogs, not just in the hills but alongside creeks that run down into Palo Alto. If you are missing a cat or small dog, and you live anywhere near a creek in Palo Alto, chances are a coyote got it. My cousin lives two blocks from Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood and saw a coyote in her back yard (in a high density neighborhood). I live in the PA hills and recently caught a coyote in the act of attacking our cat. The cat survived due to the lucky timing, and $3000 is mending. He suffered multiple puncture wounds and appears to have sustained some neurological damage. Coyotes are not hunting cats and small dogs for the fun of it, but because their population is too large for the available food supply, and the one or two cats a coyote is able to bag will not save it from starvation. So it's tragic for everyone and I believe it's time for some kind of coyote population control.


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Posted by Steve C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Coyotes may be lots of things, but one thing's for sure: they aren't stupid. A dog on a leash is far more vulnerable than one that is on a short leash.


Like this comment
Posted by TooManyCoyotes
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Typo correction: "... and $3000 is mending." should read "... and, $3000 in vet bills later, is mending."


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Posted by openspace
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 15, 2010 at 1:00 pm

There are lots of coyotes up in the hills as there is an abundance of deer in which the population is increasing. Without the mountain lions and other predators to keep them in check you will have runaway populations. I have notice the bobcat population was decreasing which maybe because of the increase in coyotes.


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Posted by PolicySage
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2010 at 1:26 pm

I have observed many cases of dog owners uneashing their dogs in Arastradero Park. One of them was extremely rude when I pointed this out to the person.
How about banning dogs altogether? This is easier on the resident animals who have been there for centuries, and might prevent hikers from being bitten by uncontrolled dogs.


Like this comment
Posted by ban dogs
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 15, 2010 at 1:32 pm

If a significant number of dog owners can't behave themselves, then ban them all.


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Posted by NormalPerson
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2010 at 1:36 pm

If the Arastradero Preserve is an open space that has truly been preserved, then that means preserving the coyotes, the weeds, the trees, the insects and all the biodiversity that goes with it. What in heavens name are dogs doing running around here? The land is the one of the last vestiges that the wild animals have around here. The coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions were here first... it is their land, and we've made quite a big mess of it, and taken the vast majority for our houses, roads, commercial buildings and so on. Leave the coyotes in peace, and leave the dogs at home.


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Posted by mystery
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Well if people are so worried about there dogs getting attacked at the reserve they should think twice before bringing them along even though dogs enjoy the walk, a bunch of people would be sad to have lost there companion..so either the owners get smart or the nature reserve should not allow dogs period.


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Posted by Nature lover
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 15, 2010 at 2:11 pm

We ran into a coyote once at Arastradero. He was coming from the other direction on the path we were using. Let me add right away that we have no dogs. Well, the coyote watched us respectfully from a distance as we were walking on the path. When we were somewhat closer to each other (about 40-50 feet maybe) he veered off the path and went away, watching us carefully all along. He did not display any aggressive behavior whatsoever.

Please, ban the dogs, not the coyotes.


Like this comment
Posted by ann
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 15, 2010 at 2:16 pm

ban dogs... you've got a mean streak in you....how dare you suggest that millions of your fellow citizens who have man's best friend as a companion and integral part of their family be banned.. coyotes are filthy scavengers that are multiplying like flies and they are attacking and killing our beloved pets...you have ice in your veins if you are going to stand up for a g.. d... coyote


1 person likes this
Posted by Wile E. Coyote
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Coyotes are smart enough to work in packs and use one coyote to lure an unleashed dog to follow the coyote to a place where it can be attacked by several other coyotes.


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Posted by Richard Placone
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I agree with the post by "Normal Person". The preserve is the coyotes' land, so why don't we let them, and all the other wild creatures have it? We humans can enjoy the wildness of this natural place, by walking carefully,observing and taking it all in. Keep our pets at home, on or off leash. One of the blessings we have living here is that a small bit of wildness is so close for us to enjoy. And why are some who post here surprised by the aggressiveness of the coyotes? Read the Weekly story again - speculation is that these are female coyote mothers just protecting their pups from what they see as a natural enemy, on or off leash.


1 person likes this
Posted by Koa
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm

If you guys are so obsessed with the "nature preserve" aspect of this article, why stop with banning dogs? Hundreds of humans walking, biking, fishing, a talking there everyday disrupts the wildlife. And as a former volunteer there who spent many afternoons weeding and clearing brush, I can tell you that over 98% of the vegetation in this "nature preserve" is non-native invasive species.

And your Range Rover that you drive to the preserve does a lot more harm than my leashed dog.


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I was out there this afternoon with my dog. Channel 5 News was there filming people and dogs also.

It's pretty absurd to think the solution is to ban dogs. Dogs and humans have been hiking on the trails now for decades and this is the first time I've ever heard about the coyote/dog/human interactions ever being threatening. Although I do seem to recall a while back that a coyote did threaten a toddler on a trail (Hamm's Gulch or nearby I believe). So if you think that leashed dogs are the problem item here, why not ban also humans (or ones under a certain height like an amusement ride), along with the dogs.

Taking this on it's face, that the experts have gotten a good picture of what's going on.......even if it's a mother coyote protecting her den.......why did she have to build a den so close to a hiking trail that the "smart" coyote must have known to be situated so? One would think that a "smart" coyote would never build a den at such a threatened site. Unless the coyote population is growing and that's the only den pickings left. Unless the coyotes are losing their fear of humans and dogs?

Perhaps time to thin the coyotes?


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Quarter Staffs, Alpine sticks, Bang sticks? The human hand and voice is poor defense against an ornery animal.


Like this comment
Posted by Wile E.
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 15, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Dogs don't belong in the preserve, coyotes do.


Like this comment
Posted by haha
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 16, 2010 at 1:54 am

great title...they are meancing people and dogs...wow....waite arent we in their habitat....hah.... get real palo alto


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2010 at 4:38 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The whole earth is our habitat. If your Disney generated understanding of the animal kingdom makes you feel at one with other life forms, get happy, and smile benignly as your child is dragged off screaming into the woods.


Like this comment
Posted by Dogs first
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2010 at 9:40 am

Where do you people think dogs came from? It's the humans who are destroying nature and the preserves, not the dogs. If the dogs had their way they would be let free to roam the preserves by themselves also!


Like this comment
Posted by Tiffany
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

Ann, that is one very angry response. Why don't you go hike the preserve and cool off? If 'ban dogs' has a mean streak towards dogs, seems like you have a mean streak in you towards coyotes.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve c
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2010 at 11:18 am

Uh, where do you dog nazis think dogs came from?


1 person likes this
Posted by Steve C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2010 at 11:24 am

Coyotes survive primarily on field mice and other small rodents, although they will attack almost any animal when they outnumber it or are larger than it. This has nothing to do with good or bad, just survival in the wild.
I don't get why anyone thinks that because an animal has been domesticated it must spend its entire life restrained on the end of a leash or in a caged area.
In my opinion, dogs should have priority over pinheaded citizens.


Like this comment
Posted by RealityCheck
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 16, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Try having a beloved member of YOUR family torn to pieces by a wild animal who will starve anyway because your dear family member, alone, is not enough keep it alive. Then you might reconsider whose "habitat" this is. Fact is, anyone who's flown over the Bay Area on a commercial flight can see that we humans are packed tightly into a relatively small proportion of the total area, and many many more times that area is wild land. That's great, I applaud it. But when coyotes come up creeks to prey on the pets who share our tightly-packed human habitat, I'm sorry but it is THEY who are invading.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Beloved pets are not outside unattended. Beloved pets are not left to roam on their own.

We love our children and thus keep them at arms length in an effort not to allow a bad person, or hungry animal to get them.

Yet all of you people defending your dogs claim this amazing love for your pets even while you place them in dangerous situations every chance you get. You let them roam far and wide in an area specifically set aside for wildlife then you get freaked out when they get confronted with wildlife.

And those of you with injured cats: A cat roaming the streets is not loved enough to be given a long happy life, so it's between them and the coyotes at that point. Are you going to want to thin out the cars in your neighborhood when fluffy gets run over by your neighbor? Between the coyotes and the cars your cat will die a tragic and likely painful death one way or the other. I really don't understand the backlash against the coyotes.

If you really loved your pets you would protect them and all of this would be mute. There is no danger to a cat happily curled up on a window sill. Nor to a dog on a short leash.


Like this comment
Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 16, 2010 at 4:04 pm

All these arguments about whether pets are appropriate, welcome, safe in the woods would be moot if there were only one or two dogs, total. The point is that on any day 50 dog-lovers with canine can show up at any place they deem a "cool run" for their dog. All kinds of things that are probably benign turn out otherwise when 250 people show up within the week to do the same thing. One dog poop—not a problem. Fifty, a big problem and growing. One dog off the leash once a month probably can't do much damage unless its being trained to bring down game.

I am old enough to remember living in a rural area of Mississippi in the 1950s. No dog was tied up except when it had to be kept close to what it was supposed to guard. And no dog was kept in the house. The dogs ran in packs, chased cars in packs, cleaned out chicken coops, and were regularly shot by irate farmers, towns people, etc. You haven't lived until you have watched a dog take down all 12 or your chickens within 4 minutes flat. Just for the thrill of the kill. You are naive if you think your dog doesn't have it in him.

All the arguments for and against dogs are questions of degree or number, and we are too numerous here for a lot of stuff.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 16, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Posters are going waaaaay off track on this. It simply makes sense to close the trails to dogs for the time being.


1 person likes this
Posted by Steve C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 16, 2010 at 10:01 pm

It really sounds like it was a mother coyote with a den near the trail. If this is the case, all this ranting is just that: ranting. The mother coyote will menace anything near her den, unless it happens to be a free lunch. Then she will kill it and eat it.
No dog owner lets his dog go running off trail on the preserves, leash or no leash. Mr. Wile Coyote is correct. Coyotes will lure even large dogs off so the pack can then attack them. They disable the dogs but tearing their haunches, rendering them all but helpless. It is the dogs who are endangered and disadvantaged here, not the coyotes. The coyotes will be fine.
The most important thing is to keep morons off the trails and out of the parks.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2010 at 3:30 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Coyotes do have survival instincts. By and large they are beneficial, but their fear of humans needs to be sustained so they don't get too comfortable around us.


Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 17, 2010 at 7:30 am

Banning dogs from Arastradero is a silly idea. They should always be on a leash and not allowed to just run free, and owners caught by the rangers with unleashed dogs should be fined. I have taken my dog to the preserve for years. He is always on a leash and I never had any problems with coyotes, bobcats or any other animal.


Like this comment
Posted by robit noops.
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 17, 2010 at 10:53 am

I love dogs, and I agree they should be kept on leash, and out of the preserve for the time being. If you want your dog to run around, do it in your yard or go to a dog park.

Aside from the current coyote problem, there are tons of snakes and ticks that can cause problems for a domesticated pet allowed to roam in the preserve. There is also the consideration to other hikers who do not want to be approached by loose dogs, equestrians, whose horses could be spooked by loose dogs, and the feces thing. Regardless of where I am, there is nothing I hate more than dog s*#t.


Like this comment
Posted by Linda
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 17, 2010 at 11:52 am

I'm disgusted with the majority of people commenting on this. Aren't there any true animal lovers out there with any common sense? You people either want me to leave my beloved dog at home, or you want to kill the coyotes. Coyotes do not generally attack dogs which are close enough to people. I was once hiking in an offleash area in another part of California, and my dog got surrounded by coyotes. They were clearly hunting him. I immediately called him back (like any good dog owner whose dog goes offleash, I have good voice control), and as soon as I got my dog right next to me with the leash, the pack of coyotes disappeared. Let's let the coyotes have their space. We need predators like coyotes to keep the natural balance. But this is no reason to deprive people like me from hiking with their dogs. My dog is not menacing the coyotes, and I'm really sick of dog-haters. Even more sick of people who want to kill coyotes.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 17, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Linda, you are fortunate the coyotes left. Walk softly but carry a big stick. Had one of those coyotes hamstrung your dog you could well have had to leave your dog with them.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm - to Linda
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 17, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Linda, I can't express strongly enough my love for animals, especially dogs. I rescue dogs, rehome dogs, volunteer at a shelter, pick dogs up off the street. My love for dogs is why I advocate closing the trail for the time being. We have a lot of great places to walk our dogs, places that are safer right now & don't inhibit wildlife as much. Sure, the ground squirrels warn each other when we approach w/our leashed dogs, then they run into their dens and stay safe. But our dogs can't get to them & they're not a threat to our dogs. Given that I care about other species, we need to respect their habitat. We don't have enough info right now as to what's going on w/the coyotes. Why take chances?


Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 18, 2010 at 6:07 am

If people who walk their dogs in Arastradero kept them on a short leash, there wouldn't be any problems. They wouldn't bother the local wild life and it wouldn't bother them. Dogs are supposed to be leashed in Arastradero. Start ticketing the violators.


Like this comment
Posted by Emily
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 20, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Coyotes are not eating cats and small dogs because they are starving. Coyotes are very intelligent opportunists and see your pets as prey (in many cases, extremely easy prey). If you want to protect your pets, keep them inside. If you feel that your pets should be able to enjoy the outdoors, there's a certain amount of risk involved. Per Irvine Animal Services:

Eradication and/or relocation of the urban coyote is not typically effective. These control measures actually provide a natural vacuum in nature that can cause these animals to have even larger litters and ultimately increases the coyote population.

Being well informed on outdoor safety and practicing the steps above is often the best way to discourage unwanted visits from nuisance coyotes. Everyone’s goal should be to peacefully coexist with our wild neighbors.


Like this comment
Posted by susan
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm

It's the season for cayotes. Let them prowl around without the dogs present. As soon as it cools off, they'll be gone again, being free antamed nomadic animals as they are. Give 'em a break!


Like this comment
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 20, 2010 at 11:02 pm

to Linda and others...

The only reason I suggested that just maybe perhaps the coyote apparently threatening leashed dogs (and their owners) be "thinned"---killed if not to mince words--is that
I am taking on face value that the dogs/humans threatened composed of dogs on leash with the duo hiking an established trail. If then the coyote both established a den and acted threatening to both humans and domesticated dogs then an over-population problem exists. Sure close the trail for now and hope for the best. But what's the operant conditioning then going to be? I threaten domesticated dogs on established trails along with the humans and I (the coyote) get my way. If the dogs were off-leash and/or the duo hiking off established trails then my suggestions as regards resolution don't apply.

I don't "want" to kill the coyotes. But these potentially dangerous animals (to us, our children and our pets) like coyotes and mountain lions have to continually have instilled in them a fear of humans. For those living on the margins of the urban/rural interface, or who traverse into that realm (and Arastadero sure fits that) it's almost a civic responsibility to "Keep the Fear Alive". I think Stephen Colbert is organizing a rally around this theme. I had no idea he agreed with me so much on this issue.


Like this comment
Posted by ulogoni
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2010 at 11:05 am

A Non,

A dead coyote cannot learn anything. Killing native wildlife in this situation is not acceptable. Education is key here, for both people and this coyote. There are plenty of non-lethal hazing techniques that have proven to be highly effective. For more information please visit: www.projectcoyote.org

There are also informational fliers available for download on the site that would be useful to help distribute around our local communities. Project Coyote has had a lot of success in teaching people how to non-lethally educate habituated coyotes to learn to avoid humans.

Food-conditioning is what needs to be watched out for. In nearly every case of people being bitten by coyotes, feeding had been involved. It is not always the person who feeds wildlife that gets bit, but this initial interaction starts a chain of events that often leads to a dead coyote. Generally habituation on its own is a non issue. For instance, much of the wildlife in Yellowstone National Park is habituated to the presence of people. It is up to us to practice respect through distance, and teach respect when necessary. Being ethical, and using only as much force as is enough to elicit avoidance behavior if the animal in question is being threatening.

Being that it is the beginning of Autumn, all dens have long been empty. Growing pups are moved to rendezvous sites and by now they will be ever more mobile, travelling with the pack or making more and more lone forays. Young coyotes are learning the ropes. A crucial period of learning.

An individual coyote displaying threatening behavior toward dogs as a sign of overpopulation is not factual. This is borderline hysterical jumping to conclusions. Ironically, killing coyotes does not address ideas of overpopulation, but rather causes more coyotes to be born into the world. When coyotes are killed, those mothers who survive produce larger litters. Why this is so may have to do with an increase in prey availability, so the mother has better nutrition as a result. There is also less competition in all regards, thus less stress.

Unless you are on an all out eradication campaign, lethal coyote control is ineffective. Pointless. Temporary placation for those who are ecologically ignorant. The only effective means of reducing coyote density and numbers over the long term has been the role played by the gray wolf. The ecology of fear. Studies show that the mere presence of wolves and not so much outright competitive killing of coyotes is enough.

Unfortunately if the wolf is allowed to return to its ancestral lands here in California they will likely only be allowed to restore the northern reaches of the state and parts of the Sierra Nevada. Before gray wolves were extirpated from most of the country coyotes were only ever found west of the Mississippi River.

Coyotes belong here in the bay. They have a role of their own to play in this fragmented, degenerating landscape. They are a part of what ever resilience is left. We have been coexisting for quite some time, there is no need to pull the trigger now. Especially not in this case where a little gentle education through repetition would likely suit just fine.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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