News

College Terrace coyote sightings draw concern

Expert finds three coyotes on residential streets in recent weeks

Hungrii Flea-Bagius. Carnivorous Vulgaris. Grotesques Appetitus. Evereadii Eatibus. Santa Clara County Wildlife Specialist Peter Gotcher used these names to describe the inherent nature of coyotes that were recently seen roaming College Terrace streets.

Concerned about a recent spate of coyote sightings and the disappearance of two neighborhood cats, members of the College Terrace Residents Association called upon Gotcher, a wildlife expert, to investigate in early May. A wiry man in a brown leather cowboy hat and boots, he had been on the College Terrace coyotes' trail for about two weeks. In just one week, Gotcher had found three different coyotes "so far," he told association members at a May 16 presentation.

In the morning hours the week before, he spotted a male with an injured paw and a mated pair, he said.

The number of coyotes — Canis latrans or "laughing dog" — as they are known to scientists, didn't surprise him. He worked with other adjacent neighborhoods when they had multiple coyote sightings two years ago and regularly encounters all manner of wildlife. More surprising to him is that people think having wildlife in the urban setting isn't normal.

"People ask me, 'How did I get a skunk in my back yard? I live in a gated community,'" he said.

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Wildlife get past fences and into yards and they roam down streets in large part because humans make it convenient for them to do so. Culverts, which bring runoff into creeks in winter, provide prime den locations when the creeks dry out in April and May, he said. And people provide easy food and water sources for the generally energy-conserving coyote.

Gotcher asked the residents to look at life from the coyote's point of view. It is not a pretty life. Plagued by mange and heart worms, "it's a hard life when you have to hunt something every day and you don't get regular dental checkups," Gotcher said.

The three he spotted in College Terrace were most likely fleeing hardships in their natural habitat. The injured coyote likely came down from the hills because it would be easier to get around in the flatlands; the pair seemed to have been kicked out of the pack and were seeking new territory, he said.

Given the abundance of fruit trees, garbage, pet food and the animals that feed on them — rats, squirrels, birds, mice, rabbits and the occasional house cat or small dog — a residential neighborhood can be a prime location for easier pickings, he said. And coyotes are not picky, as his names for them have noted.

"They'll eat everything and anything," Gotcher said, flipping his slide show to a photograph of an orange Scrunchie that passed through a coyote's digestive system.

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They will search compost piles; they'll destroy irrigation lines. Drip-irrigation systems make a loud whistling noise that is music to the coyote's sensitive ears. The sound is like a mouse's squeak, he said.

The county doesn't plan to trap the coyotes. It's not legal to trap wildlife in most cases in California and coyotes don't do well when relocated. These coyotes are not a hazard to humans. When encountered, they ran away, he said.

But residents can manage the neighborhood coyotes by surrounding yards with a 6-foot-high fence that is secured underground and creating a "defensible" space by clearing brush and ivy from around a house, he said.

Coyotes have a strong sense of smell, so there's the obvious: securing garbage- and recycle-bin lids. But residents should pick up fallen fruit and feed birds in spill-proof feeders so seeds on the ground don't attract rodents. Pet food and water left outdoors, including in feral-cat feeding stations, are also attractants, he said.

Small pets are also potential prey. Owners should keep small dogs and cats indoors, particularly at night. To prove his point, Gotcher showed a slide of a lineup of collars and tags from cats and small dogs hanging in his work cubicle.

"I have to call someone and say, 'Do you have a cat named Fluffy?'" he said.

Gotcher also had advice for encounters while walking small dogs. Keep pets on a fixed-length leash. Retractable leashes allow dogs to travel at an unsafe distance from their owners, he said. Some dogs also become frantic and can break out of a collar, running directly into the path of the coyote.

Gotcher recommended using a pet harness instead and practicing picking up the dog by the harness. Also get the pet used to a loud noise such as a whistle or air horn to scare away a coyote, he said.

A photo popped up on the slide-show screen: a Bichon Frise sporting a deluxe outfit made of Kevlar, metal spikes and Dayglo plastic bristles, purportedly coyote-proof. It elicited howls from the audience.

The best defense is being aware of one's surroundings, Gotcher said. If one encounters a coyote on a trail one can walk around it, giving a wide berth. If the destination would lead to a dead end, it is best to choose another route. Keep turned to face the coyote and keep an eye on it, but also on where one is going.

"Turning your back gives them the bad advantage," he said.

Coyotes sitting or standing on a trail aren't necessarily going to stand their ground or challenge a person. They are curious to figure out what the two-legged creature is up to, he said.

And in the eyes of a coyote, humans can look pretty weird. People look like bright splashes of paint. Brighteners in laundry soap give off ultraviolet specks on clothing that the coyote can see, he said.

Although rare, children have been attacked by coyotes, notably at playgrounds in Southern California where the park was adjacent to open space. But that shouldn't create unnecessary fear. As always, adults should keep a close watch on children — and keep their eyes off their mobile devices, he said.

"Kids are more in danger from a two-legged predator than a four-legged predator," he said.

More information about managing neighborhood coyotes, including fencing, can be found at sccgov.org.

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College Terrace coyote sightings draw concern

Expert finds three coyotes on residential streets in recent weeks

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, May 25, 2018, 6:51 am
Updated: Mon, May 28, 2018, 8:16 am

Hungrii Flea-Bagius. Carnivorous Vulgaris. Grotesques Appetitus. Evereadii Eatibus. Santa Clara County Wildlife Specialist Peter Gotcher used these names to describe the inherent nature of coyotes that were recently seen roaming College Terrace streets.

Concerned about a recent spate of coyote sightings and the disappearance of two neighborhood cats, members of the College Terrace Residents Association called upon Gotcher, a wildlife expert, to investigate in early May. A wiry man in a brown leather cowboy hat and boots, he had been on the College Terrace coyotes' trail for about two weeks. In just one week, Gotcher had found three different coyotes "so far," he told association members at a May 16 presentation.

In the morning hours the week before, he spotted a male with an injured paw and a mated pair, he said.

The number of coyotes — Canis latrans or "laughing dog" — as they are known to scientists, didn't surprise him. He worked with other adjacent neighborhoods when they had multiple coyote sightings two years ago and regularly encounters all manner of wildlife. More surprising to him is that people think having wildlife in the urban setting isn't normal.

"People ask me, 'How did I get a skunk in my back yard? I live in a gated community,'" he said.

Wildlife get past fences and into yards and they roam down streets in large part because humans make it convenient for them to do so. Culverts, which bring runoff into creeks in winter, provide prime den locations when the creeks dry out in April and May, he said. And people provide easy food and water sources for the generally energy-conserving coyote.

Gotcher asked the residents to look at life from the coyote's point of view. It is not a pretty life. Plagued by mange and heart worms, "it's a hard life when you have to hunt something every day and you don't get regular dental checkups," Gotcher said.

The three he spotted in College Terrace were most likely fleeing hardships in their natural habitat. The injured coyote likely came down from the hills because it would be easier to get around in the flatlands; the pair seemed to have been kicked out of the pack and were seeking new territory, he said.

Given the abundance of fruit trees, garbage, pet food and the animals that feed on them — rats, squirrels, birds, mice, rabbits and the occasional house cat or small dog — a residential neighborhood can be a prime location for easier pickings, he said. And coyotes are not picky, as his names for them have noted.

"They'll eat everything and anything," Gotcher said, flipping his slide show to a photograph of an orange Scrunchie that passed through a coyote's digestive system.

They will search compost piles; they'll destroy irrigation lines. Drip-irrigation systems make a loud whistling noise that is music to the coyote's sensitive ears. The sound is like a mouse's squeak, he said.

The county doesn't plan to trap the coyotes. It's not legal to trap wildlife in most cases in California and coyotes don't do well when relocated. These coyotes are not a hazard to humans. When encountered, they ran away, he said.

But residents can manage the neighborhood coyotes by surrounding yards with a 6-foot-high fence that is secured underground and creating a "defensible" space by clearing brush and ivy from around a house, he said.

Coyotes have a strong sense of smell, so there's the obvious: securing garbage- and recycle-bin lids. But residents should pick up fallen fruit and feed birds in spill-proof feeders so seeds on the ground don't attract rodents. Pet food and water left outdoors, including in feral-cat feeding stations, are also attractants, he said.

Small pets are also potential prey. Owners should keep small dogs and cats indoors, particularly at night. To prove his point, Gotcher showed a slide of a lineup of collars and tags from cats and small dogs hanging in his work cubicle.

"I have to call someone and say, 'Do you have a cat named Fluffy?'" he said.

Gotcher also had advice for encounters while walking small dogs. Keep pets on a fixed-length leash. Retractable leashes allow dogs to travel at an unsafe distance from their owners, he said. Some dogs also become frantic and can break out of a collar, running directly into the path of the coyote.

Gotcher recommended using a pet harness instead and practicing picking up the dog by the harness. Also get the pet used to a loud noise such as a whistle or air horn to scare away a coyote, he said.

A photo popped up on the slide-show screen: a Bichon Frise sporting a deluxe outfit made of Kevlar, metal spikes and Dayglo plastic bristles, purportedly coyote-proof. It elicited howls from the audience.

The best defense is being aware of one's surroundings, Gotcher said. If one encounters a coyote on a trail one can walk around it, giving a wide berth. If the destination would lead to a dead end, it is best to choose another route. Keep turned to face the coyote and keep an eye on it, but also on where one is going.

"Turning your back gives them the bad advantage," he said.

Coyotes sitting or standing on a trail aren't necessarily going to stand their ground or challenge a person. They are curious to figure out what the two-legged creature is up to, he said.

And in the eyes of a coyote, humans can look pretty weird. People look like bright splashes of paint. Brighteners in laundry soap give off ultraviolet specks on clothing that the coyote can see, he said.

Although rare, children have been attacked by coyotes, notably at playgrounds in Southern California where the park was adjacent to open space. But that shouldn't create unnecessary fear. As always, adults should keep a close watch on children — and keep their eyes off their mobile devices, he said.

"Kids are more in danger from a two-legged predator than a four-legged predator," he said.

More information about managing neighborhood coyotes, including fencing, can be found at sccgov.org.

Comments

Round up time
Barron Park
on May 25, 2018 at 10:55 am
Round up time, Barron Park
on May 25, 2018 at 10:55 am

Our beloved Min Pin pried open a screen door, walked past 6 people and was attacked and killed by coyotes. Likely since this happened on my watch, I've never felt so bad about anything in my life. When the season opens up, count me in.


QueenCeleste
Stanford
on May 25, 2018 at 12:18 pm
QueenCeleste, Stanford
on May 25, 2018 at 12:18 pm

We need to learn to live with them all wildlife in our neighborhoods. I will do everything I can to help protect them from those wishing them harm.


Bill
Barron Park
on May 25, 2018 at 1:39 pm
Bill, Barron Park
on May 25, 2018 at 1:39 pm

Excellent article.

In the wild coyotes prey on gray foxes, but a recent study, I believe conducted in Milwaukee, it was shown that coyotes living in urban/city settings no longer prey on foxes and find it comfortable living side by side. The scientists speculated that this change in behavior was due to the large and easy to get food supply for both animals. Urban dwelling changes wildlife's behavior.


Lisa
Crescent Park
on May 25, 2018 at 1:45 pm
Lisa , Crescent Park
on May 25, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Just another reminder to keep cats indoors. Protects cats from coyotes, protects birds from cats.


Christy
Old Palo Alto
on May 25, 2018 at 2:19 pm
Christy, Old Palo Alto
on May 25, 2018 at 2:19 pm

@ Round Up Time: there are plenty of places to legally hunt coyotes and there is no limit: Web Link


Bill
Barron Park
on May 25, 2018 at 2:26 pm
Bill, Barron Park
on May 25, 2018 at 2:26 pm

Christy, why would anyone want to kill coyotes at all, much less kill as many as you can? Did you know that when coyotes are hunted and their population decreases, they have the ability the following year to have an increased number of litters and in each litter a larger number of pups? As well, when their population gets to be too large, they have the ability to have fewer pups. In short, kill off a thousand or so and you get a population explosion. They are self-regulating.


Rick
College Terrace
on May 25, 2018 at 2:52 pm
Rick, College Terrace
on May 25, 2018 at 2:52 pm

Bill,
That is a simplistic view. Numerous studies by California Department of Fish and Game; U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services; U.S. Forest Service have shown that because the coyotes’ rate of reproduction is influenced by food, water and shelter availability, eliminating these sources along with selective killing produces more effective results.


A Noun Ea Mus
Professorville
on May 25, 2018 at 4:36 pm
A Noun Ea Mus, Professorville
on May 25, 2018 at 4:36 pm

A friend of mine knows the couple who had their toddler almost dragged away by a coyote near the beginning of the Hamm's Gulch Trail in Portola Valley. While rare it can happen. IMO we need to dissuade them from living amongst humans in urban settings (College Terrace) by culling those which take up residence among us upright primates. The fact the wildlife expert quoted in this story feels the "Coyote Couple" (hey a good movie title, starring Peter Coyote and Angie Dickinson?) got driven out of their natural turf speaks to this.


Bill
Barron Park
on May 25, 2018 at 4:47 pm
Bill, Barron Park
on May 25, 2018 at 4:47 pm

Rick: Can you point me directly to the published information from these sources? I am always open to learning new information. However, I cannot accept anything that the USDA Wildlife Services puts forward. Their specific job is to slaughter millions of animals annually and they do it for little to no reason.


Steven Childs
Adobe-Meadow
on May 27, 2018 at 11:46 am
Steven Childs, Adobe-Meadow
on May 27, 2018 at 11:46 am

Bill, Study after study by those supporting coyotes in city limits show coyotes "may" have larger litters but never follow up to show the survival rates of those larger litters. I need to point out the carefully qualified claims of "may" and "can" as these are unproven theories. The studies claiming increased litter sizes from exploitation have never been able to separate whether or not the litter size increase was a function of control or resource availability.

Bill, why don't you post the studies that support your claims?

Also, coyotes are monoestrus meaning they only produce one litter each year, not multiples like you claimed. "they have the ability the following year to have an increased number of litters and in each litter a larger number of pups?"


Steven Childs
Adobe-Meadow
on May 27, 2018 at 12:05 pm
Steven Childs, Adobe-Meadow
on May 27, 2018 at 12:05 pm

Who said scientists refer to Canis Latrans as "laughing dog?" Translated from Latin, Canis Latrans means "barking dog."

Either way, someone is making things up.


11yearold
Adobe-Meadow
on May 27, 2018 at 1:12 pm
11yearold, Adobe-Meadow
on May 27, 2018 at 1:12 pm

How are the coyotes not a hazard if they kill cats and dogs. Are you saying you don't mind if the life of cute innocent cats and dogs lives are being perished, but you care if humans were killed.!!?? Are you gonna let innocent cut pets lives lost while you do nothing?! You may think that only the pets lives are being lost, but think again!, what happens to the owners who their pets filled the other half of there heart, actullay humans may not die from them but they CAN make them cause depression,.And we all know from the news what depression causes and I know it but, I’d rather not scare little kids,. Now I state to conclude that if your not gonna do anything, I will and we neeed to spread awareness cause if your not gonna do anything we will, The people of Coolege terrece . Cause tpgether WE CAN MAKE a change.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2018 at 2:49 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2018 at 2:49 pm

Maybe we need to put the coyotes in Shoreline.

Web Link


Bill
Barron Park
on May 27, 2018 at 6:37 pm
Bill, Barron Park
on May 27, 2018 at 6:37 pm

Steven Childs:

I am going to contact Stan Gehrt who has conducted the longest running urban coyote research program in the country. I have been in touch with him in the past over questions. I too want to get this straight. Maybe it is a may, and can. In any case I will know for sure. Thanks for the shove.


Palo Alto no more
another community
on May 27, 2018 at 7:06 pm
Palo Alto no more, another community
on May 27, 2018 at 7:06 pm

We left Palo Alto a few years ago. We now live in the country where our farm animals and pets live safely in a habitat that includes coyotes and Cougars. It's not difficult to do, if you have any common sense. I am not surprised that Palo Altan's solution to Coyotes is to want to kill them. That is the typical small minded approach that Palo Altans take to most everything. We left Palo Alto because of those small minded people and the hypocracy rampant in the faux-liberal community. I could have predicted that Palo ALto would come up with such terrible solutions as KILLING creatures they unreasonably and unnecessarily fear.


Palo Alto no more
another community
on May 27, 2018 at 9:19 pm
Palo Alto no more, another community
on May 27, 2018 at 9:19 pm

.... "cute innocent cats and dogs"....

It is all a food chain.
You cat may look cute while it is stalking that mouse, or bird... but the aftermath when it catches it is just a cruel and gruesome as what a Coyote will do to a cat.

As you are well aware, cats and dogs are carnivores. What you feed them from that can or food packet each day was once a cute animal. What we eat (those of us that are meat eaters, that is) was once a cute chicken or cow, or lamb, etc.

To protect you cats, just remember that Coyotes are primarily nocturnal. Simply bring your cat in at sunset and don't let then out till well after dawn. Better yet, don't let them roam the neighborhood at all (and other peoples yards where they kill the birds your neighbors may cherish). If your cat is in your yard or house, it is unlikely to encounter a Coyote.

Similarly, to protect your dogs, don't let them out of your yard.

Do that, and you need have no fear your animals will fall prey to a Coyote. Unfortunately, I can not say that the cute birds, mice, rabbits and squirrels that may enter your yard will not be torn to pieces while alive and then eaten by your cute cat of dog.


Bill
Barron Park
on May 28, 2018 at 12:38 pm
Bill, Barron Park
on May 28, 2018 at 12:38 pm

I just emailed Dr. Gehrt, the nation's leading expert on coyote behavior, and as soon as I get a reply, I will post it here.


moi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2018 at 2:28 pm
moi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2018 at 2:28 pm

>> Editor —

“Although rare, children have been attacked by coyotes, . . .”

To my consternation, children are not rare.

(Haters need not reply.)


moi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2018 at 2:33 pm
moi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Germaine to the comment above, perhaps coyotes prefer their children rare.

(Haters still need not reply. The editors let the unfortunate sentence structure be published; I only called it out.)


the_punnisher
Registered user
Mountain View
on May 28, 2018 at 3:08 pm
the_punnisher, Mountain View
Registered user
on May 28, 2018 at 3:08 pm

A reminer: COYOTES WERE HERE FIRST. For many people, this a hard thing to understand. How about everyone just leave the SFBA to solve this people problem for coyotes?
Since this will not happen, everyone must share the habitat. That means bringing in all urban food sources and that includes keeping waste cans covered or they will get recycled naturally. Coyotes have been here a long time, humans, not so long. Part of their food source included rats and mice. Everything left outside is fair game to them.


Bill
Barron Park
on May 28, 2018 at 4:27 pm
Bill, Barron Park
on May 28, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Moi wrote, "Although rare, children have been attacked by coyotes, . . .” Both in and out of my wildlife research, I have heard this statement before and I've also heard that there is no record, no proof of coyotes even trying to carry off children. Moi, do you have a substantial source for your comment?


Bill
Barron Park
on May 28, 2018 at 4:38 pm
Bill, Barron Park
on May 28, 2018 at 4:38 pm

So, out of curiosity I just Googled children being attacked by coyotes and it seems as if there is one case at least where it was confirmed through DNA that a specific coyote did attack a two year old. Still, that is no reason to go on a coyote killing spree. Some of the above comments by people are spot on. Coyotes have inhabited this planet far longer than we humans. We need to learn to live with them for they perform essential roles in balancing the ecosystem.


Moi
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2018 at 5:34 pm
Moi, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2018 at 5:34 pm

...

Bill —

I was merely quoting the Palo Alto Online article itself; I was not making that statement myself. And I am CERTAINLY not advocating the destruction or removal of any urban coyotes. Far from it.

Please see the next-to-last paragraph for the original context of the quoted text.

...


Otis
College Terrace
on May 30, 2018 at 9:48 am
Otis, College Terrace
on May 30, 2018 at 9:48 am

Spotted Coyote this morning strolling down Hanover St. between College and Stanford at 7 AM.


mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 30, 2018 at 11:37 am
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 30, 2018 at 11:37 am

I'd be much more worried about people than Coyotes. Drivers blowing by red lights and stop signs, criminals, and mostly corporations that use and abuse ordinary people. Coyotes are an important part of the eco system and they have been here long before people. We have invaded their space, not the other way around, and we should find a way of co existing with them, not killing them. Going on a coyote killing spree is nothing but slaughter.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2018 at 6:10 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2018 at 6:10 pm

"I am not surprised that Palo Altan's solution to Coyotes is to want to kill them. That is the typical small minded approach that Palo Altans take to most everything. "

You can leave your hatred of Palo Alto at the door, thanks. Your jealousy is not a good look.


Bill
Barron Park
on May 30, 2018 at 7:11 pm
Bill, Barron Park
on May 30, 2018 at 7:11 pm

Me 2, how can you generalize like that? I know the politics around here and I see Palo Alto people as being very diverse. I am involved with politics and wildlife. Coyotes have their niche, as do all sentient beings. It's time we listened and learned to live side-by-side.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2018 at 8:29 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2018 at 8:29 pm

"Me 2, how can you generalize like that? "

How can I generalize like that? I'm not the one that called our citizens small minded. @Palo Alto no more clearly has some issues that she/he is still dealing with.


Jerry
College Terrace
on May 30, 2018 at 9:41 pm
Jerry, College Terrace
on May 30, 2018 at 9:41 pm

WHAT ABOUT THE CROWS?! WE NEED TO STOP THE CROWS!!!


Daniel
Los Altos Hills
on Jun 7, 2018 at 9:58 pm
Daniel, Los Altos Hills
on Jun 7, 2018 at 9:58 pm

It is possible to live with coyotes and not live in fear. In our neighborhood, coyotes are a regular sight. The Los Altos Hills web site has a lot of useful information about living in harmony with coyotes: Web Link

It is true that we need to be careful with our pets when we live with coyotes. Don't leave them alone, especially at night. However, the danger to pets from coyotes is probably less than the danger to pets from cars. No one is calling for the banning of cars in Palo Alto because some pets were run over. When nature appears on our doorstep, the solution is not necessarily "let's murder it!" With the right perspective, we can learn to live together with the natural world and appreciate its beauty while we still have it.


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