Los Gatos Weekly

Town agrees that coyotes can be trapped

September 15, 2004

Grant Sheldon, Staff Writer

Los Gatos may soon get a little relief from the coyotes that are killing pets, howling through the night and worrying residents.

Personnel from the Santa Clara County Vector Control District would not use rubber leg-hold traps to catch problem coyotes, believing them to be prohibited under Los Gatos town code. But the town council agreed Sept. 7 that the code does not forbid their use by government agencies when animals present a public-safety risk.

In 1994, the town adopted a section of code barring the use of steel traps as defined in a section of California Fish and Game code. Four years later, the state added a section prohibiting the use of any leg-hold trap except by government employees when human health and safety are at stake.

Mike Phillips, wildlife technician with the vector control district, previously said that the town code still prohibited use of the traps by not referencing the newer section.

Town Attorney Orry Korb said at the Tuesday night meeting that the town code did not specifically bar their use and thus could be used in emergency situations by government personnel. He said the town could send a letter to the vector control district if the council agreed with that interpretation.

Community members spoke to the council about their recent encounters with coyotes. Some said their neighbors have lost pet cats and dogs. Others have found remnants of those lost pets and other wild animals such as deer. Vector control personnel have also found that several of the animals have heartworm, mange and other health problems.

One man said he fears that his dog could be harmed if it comes in contact with a coyote.

“These coyotes are a nuisance,” said Francis Oaks Way resident Jim Dunlay. “They’re a hazard. They have to be removed.”

Mary Paglieri, who runs a nonprofit organization that attempts to resolve human-animal conflicts, also spoke. She said changing the behavior of coyotes is more effective than simply catching and euthanizing them.

“If what is attracting them into the area is not addressed, the problem will go on,” Paglieri said.

She advised residents of the area where coyotes are appearing to keep garbage cans tightly closed, leave pet food and small pets indoors and take other steps to eliminate food sources for the animals.

Council members, however, said that immediate action was needed before a child or even an adult is injured. They suggested that residents follow Paglieri’s advice about eliminating potential food sources, but said there was imminent danger that needed to be addressed. Since the coyotes have become aggressive with local pets and humans, those that are causing problems should be eliminated, they said.

A man who lives on Greenridge Terrace said he and his wife now fear for the safety of their 5 1/2-year-old son. Hamal Mahtalia said he has been a vegetarian since birth and his religion requires him to respect all animals, but that the coyotes need to be eliminated.

“I just got my son interested in looking up at the stars,” he said. “Now, by about 6 o’clock, we have him locked up inside. I would like to work with nature, but now this is a problem.”

The council unanimously agreed to send a letter to the vector control district clarifying that the town code does not prohibit rubber leg-hold traps.

The following day, Phillips said the district would monitor the approximately seven coyotes that have been seen near homes. If necessary, they will likely set traps for the three that have been most aggressive in the coming weeks.