Almaden Times Weekly

City denies coyote trapping—again
Deja vu and disappointment

October 28, 2004
Kymberli W. Brady, Staff Writer

How quickly the tide can turn in two short weeks.
While Villas of Almaden residents quietly and confidently poured into council chambers on Tuesday expecting to put an end to an 18-month coyote-induced nightmare, they left instead stunned and frustrated.
According to residents of the Villas of Almaden, the decision to deny the trapping of the coyotes is yet another on a long list of disappointments that the city has racked up since they launched a formal appeal to restore the safety and peace of mind that slipped away when their pets were found mangled and residents “stalked” by the fearless animals.

The optimism was based on Councilmember Chuck Reed’s assertion that if provided with a letter from the State Department of Fish and Game stating that current conditions necessitated the removal of the coyotes to ensure public safety, he would give them the eighth vote needed to pass a 45-day urgency ordinance and allow Santa Clara County Vector Control to trap and remove the animals.

“We have a letter here from Vector Control saying there is an eminent danger to public safety,” Reed said on Oct. 12. “If we’re looking to comply with a state ordinance, bring me back a letter from Fish and Game stating the same and you’ll have your eighth vote.”

Councilmember David Cortese agreed.

“If that letter comes in, we should cut to the chase,” he said.

And bring it they did.

However, no one expected Councilmembers Ken Yeager and Terry Gregory to jump ship after voting in favor of the ordinance on Oct. 13—a move that caused the motion to fail by a vote of 5-5.

Once again, preventative measures took precedence over resident’s fears and repeated pleas to restore their sense of security.

Councilmembers Linda LeZotte and Forrest Williams stood firm on their dissention, while Nora Campos, Ken Yeager, and Terry Gregory jumped ship after hearing statements that cast doubt on whether alternative measures had been adequately explored.
“I had concerns the first time, but this time around, I had a lot more information,” said Gregory. “It wasn’t clear to me that we had done due diligence regarding the things that could have mitigated this problem. The consultant we hired [Paglieri] said that none of these measures had taken place before euthanasing these animals.”

“We live in Coyote Valley,” exclaimed Councilmember Forest Williams, who has admittedly opposed the killing of any animal. “There’s going to be coyotes here. Given the fact that we are going to keep coming back to kill and kill again, it means something to me. Perhaps we should change the name to ‘Kill Coyote Valley.’”

Noor Tietze, P.h.D. with the Dept, of Environmental Health, Vector Control District warned the council that coyotes, once they move into neighborhoods can become urbanized and display aggressive behavior, posing a far greater threat as human attacks become imminent. Removal and euthanasia remains the recommended solution in this case, as the animals cannot be repatriated into the wild, nor can the pups that have been reared in the same environment.

Cortese, reflecting on a youth filled with coyote wildlife experiences agreed.

“This is very different and very unusual behavior for coyotes,” he said. “It’s not normal and alarms me greatly. I don’t think we have a choice here but to approve Dando’s recommendation.”

In light of increased incidences and mounting concerns, Reed said he was convinced that the ordinance should be changed to mirror that of the state.

“I do think the San Jose law ought to be the same as the state law,” he noted. “Otherwise, it will open things up to have a lot more hearings on coyotes every time there is a problem.”

Following the decision, Vice Mayor Pat Dando tried to offer a rationale for the outcome, and warned that increased wildlife encounters can be attributed to planning.

“I think it’s just a philosophical difference with some of my colleagues,” she said. “There isn’t anyone who loves animals more than I do, but when there’s a choice of endangering people, children, and pets, you have to draw the line—you still have to be very selective and do all the due diligence. When all is said and done, history has told us that once urbanized, animals don’t change.”

In a letter to Councilmember Linda LeZotte on Wed., Spadafore attempted to set the record straight on allegations raised at the meeting and expressed his concerns regarding the City Hall process.

“You and the other Councilmembers were lied to by at least five different groups yesterday,” he wrote. “These lies took place in their two minute presentations and slandered the Villas without giving us a chance to rebut the statements made, even though Vice Mayor Dando did a good job in pointing out some of them. To have this take place at the City Council level makes me, as a resident of San Jose wonder about due process. This, among other happenings in recent months has not reflected well on the Council. When you can’t trust the staff or the councilmembers, something is very wrong.”

He mentioned two letters from Little Blue Society president Mary Paglieri, which he claimed were false representations of her coyote abatement program—letters that he felt further swayed the vote in the other direction.

“You were told that the second letter was from The City of Portola Valley and the Portola Valley Home Owners Association,” he wrote. “It is not from either group, but from an Animal Rights Conservation Group in Portola Valley. The facts in that letter can be questioned as I have done and found that they aren’t true as written.”

He further questioned the motive behind Councilmember Terry Gregory’s vote and whether it was in retaliation, as Reed was one of three councilmembers who recommended that he be censured for ethical wrongdoings—now under investigation.

“He knew Reed would be the deciding vote if Fish and Game came through,” Spadafore said. “It makes me wonder how much trust we should have in our council.”

“That’s garbage,” replied Gregory in response to Spadafore’s suggestion. “It’s absolutely not true. I’m here to serve the residents and am too grown up to go tit for tat. Any suggestion that my vote was retaliatory is absolutely false. It couldn’t be more wrong.”

Whatever the motives, the decision has been made. For the residents, the battle is not over, as they continue to assess their options looking forward, including plans to put another motion on the agenda asking for a permanent change to the ordinance—a move that would only require a majority vote to pass.

In the meantime, the trapping proposal will not likely surface again—unless there is an attack—not very reassuring for Dando, who represents the residents in District 10.

The council did manage to pass a recommendation prohibiting the feeding of wild animals including coyotes, foxes, deer, raccoons, possums, skunks and mountain lions.

“The community has clearly done everything they’ve been asked to do,” Dando said. “However, with all the re-vegetation along the creek and perk ponds, our planning now has to be smarter. The more we build out, the more we’re going to disrupt the wildlife and they’re going to go somewhere. If they go into neighborhoods, we have to be prepared to deal with it.”

“We have lost rounds one through six,” admitted Spadafore. “We can’t depend on the city to solve our problems in the future, but this is a 15-round fight and we intend to be standing at the end of it.”