San Jose Mercury News

S.J. vetoes coyote traps again
Decision against lifting ban angers residents in Almaden Valley

October 27, 2004
Rodney Foo, Staff Writer

Villas of Almaden:

The San Jose City Council once again rejected an emergency measure Tuesday to allow the trapping of coyotes that have invaded an Almaden Valley gated community, killing pets and stalking children.

For the second time in three weeks, a proposed urgency amendment to temporarily lift a city ban on trapping failed to gather the necessary eight votes needed for passage.

The measure, supported by Councilwoman Pat Dando, whose district includes the Villas of Almaden, an enclave of 192 homes, received only six ”yes” votes to five ”no” votes.

”I personally think the policy makers let them down,” Dando said afterward.

Council members Linda LeZotte, Nora Campos, Ken Yeager, Terry Gregory, and Forrest Williams cast dissenting votes after expressing doubts that alternatives had been given a thorough chance. Among those options were an education program to teach residents how to eliminate food sources such as pet food left outdoors and bird feeders that attract coyote prey.

”I find it very difficult just to say, ‘Let’s just go and kill ’em,’ ” Gregory said.

The vote infuriated dozens of Villas residents, who expressed anger at the council’s refusal to act.

Wildlife experts have testified that the coyotes within the Villas have become so habituated to people and finding easy prey, such as pet cats wandering outside homes, they have lost their fear of humans. Now residents said they fear the coyotes’ next victim will be a human being.

”The vote was absolutely ridiculous,” resident Sally Revel said. ”I think the priorities of human life should be more important than worrying about the life of a wild coyote who is ‘humanized.’ They scratch the cars as you go by. Given the opportunity to run over one, guess what I would do?”

It’s possible that the trouble with coyotes might spread to other neighborhoods, said Jon Cicirelli, director of the city’s animal care and services division. With winter coming and food scarce, the adult coyotes inside the Villas community have apparently ousted their pups, who could well be scouring other areas for food, he said.

The proposal to trap the coyotes was a staff recommendation and likely not to surface again unless there is an incident — such as an attack — that would trigger revisiting the issue, Cicirelli said.

However, the council did pass other recommendations including:

• Prohibiting the feeding of wild animals including coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, raccoons, bears, deer, possums and skunks. Other species — like wild boar — may be added to the ordinance before it comes up for final adoption.

• Directing staffers to work with the Villas residents and the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley to institute a long-term plan for deterring coyotes. They’ll also advise homeowners on what alternative landscape materials ought to be used to make the 55-acre community inhospitable to coyotes.

• Installing dog leash signs at the adjacent parks of Guadalupe Oak Grove, Fontana, and Martin to discourage dogs from driving deer — which are thought to attract coyotes — into the Villas or keeping them within the development.

Some wildlife organization representatives testified against trapping.

Mary Paglieri of the Little Blue Society, a non-profit group hired by the city to evaluate coyotes at the Villas, accused the residents of seeking an expedited answer at any cost — an allegation the homeowners association has long denied.

For residents, the latest vote was a bitter affirmation of an Oct. 5 council vote that also stymied an urgency measure to lift the city’s trapping ban. But at an Oct. 12 council meeting, residents were hopeful that a council recommendation to re-examine the environmental ramifications of trapping would change members’ positions. That report found the trapping would not have ”significant impacts” on other wildlife, but it wasn’t enough to make a difference.