The Almanac

We can co-exist with wildlife

September 6, 2000

Luckily, the pair of coyotes that recently terrorized residents of Portola Valley Ranch, attacking dogs walking with their owners and pets in back yards, appear to have vanished, easing the tensions that split residents of the area between those who want to get rid of the varmints and those who want to learn to live with them.

Now residents of the Ranch — and other local areas where people live near wild land — have a breathing space to consider their choices.

While some residents, understandably afraid for their children, their pets and themselves, want to dispatch the offending animals, others argue that there are straightforward techniques that will allow people to live in relative harmony with the wild animals that share the land.

Such as: Don’t feed them, don’t leave your pets out at night, and keep your eye on small children. If there’s no food around, maybe they will look for greener pastures.

Before the two coyotes that caused the ruckus moved on, the Ranch had obtained permission from the town to hire a hunter to shoot them. When that didn’t happen right away, other residents contacted members of the Little Blue Society, a local organization with members who are wildlife experts dedicated to finding ways for humans to co-exist with the animals, which have roamed the valley’s rolling hills for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

A survey of the problem area showed there was a large bird feeder in the neighborhood, which spilled seed, which attracted rodents, which attracted coyotes. Also, at least one other resident had actually been feeding the animals. Little Blue Society representatives also suggested ways to deter coyotes by moving trails, building fences, destroying dens, and putting smelly things — such as mothballs or ammonia-soaked rags — in strategic locations.

The bird feeder is gone, some other remedies have been tried, and these may — or may not — have contributed to the disappearance of the smart, wily and opportunistic animals.

Now is a good time to help people learn better ways to co-exist with the wild animals that live on the lands that most residents love. And it’s not just coyotes; the Peninsula hills are home to a variety of animals that can cause problems. Bobcats, deer, foxes, raccoons and rattlesnakes also live in the hills and can be dangerous. You can’t shoot them all.

Simple precautions, if they work, are much better than extermination, which, experts say, can result in even more coyotes in a particular territory.

Mary Paglieri of the Little Blue Society has other suggestions:

Don’t leave pet food or water bowls outside.
Secure garbage either indoors or in secure containers so that it is not available to coyotes; pick fruit before it falls on the ground.
Keep landscaping pruned and ivy trimmed; these can harbor rats or provide cover for coyotes.
Fence yards, including wire several inches below ground.
If you meet a coyote, do not advance toward it; do not turn your back or run; stand tall, make loud noises and throw something at it. Stay between the animal and small children.

Finally, Ms. Paglieri warns, “Never leave small children unattended in areas known to be frequented by coyotes.”
More information is available by e-mailing Ms. Paglieri at Good luck. Maybe these measures will discourage the coyotes from returning and save a lot of fear and pain.