Downey residents reach their breaking point with coyotes

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DOWNEY – While outcry continues for the city to solve the local coyote dilemma, officials are saying that the solution is not as easy as it seems.

The city of Downey recently held a meeting for residents to voice their concerns about a recent uptick in coyote sightings around the city, a problem intensified by the loss of several family pets. This meeting was also an opportunity for residents to get detailed information as to options the community is considering to combat the encroachment.

According to Mayor Rick Rodriguez, the meeting was a success.

“It went very well,” said Rodriguez. “I took a ton of notes…I wanted our residents to understand that I take this serious; I take their concerns serious.”

One of the solutions to come out of the community outreach was the formation of a volunteer group similar to that of Gangs out of Downey.

“We’re creating a group called COOD: Coyotes out of Downey,” said Rodriguez. “I love the idea. That came out of our meeting because one of the residents said, ‘We keep gangs out of our city with an organization called Gangs out of Downey…Why can’t we do that with coyotes?’”

PHOTO BY CLAUDIA GOMEZ   Mayor Rick Rodriguez speaks at a recent town hall meeting where the only item on the agenda was coyotes.


Mayor Rick Rodriguez speaks at a recent town hall meeting where the only item on the agenda was coyotes.

Rodriguez adds that the city is also looking into cleaning up areas that may be overgrown with vegetation, updating the city app to include coyote sightings, creating a city run coyote watch on Facebook, posting signs, and possibly even creating a city ordinance to potentially dissuade and - if necessarily – fine residents who exhibit behaviors and habits that attract coyotes.

The city has also established the City of Downey Coyote Management plan, which can be found on the city’s website.

Despite the city’s newfound heightened interest on the issue, it comes as little comfort to many residents, especially those who have lost pets to the predators.

One resident, Julie Fercho, witnessed the mauling of her neighbor’s dog by a coyote up close not long after moving into the city in 2016.

“I was completely horrified and didn’t know what to do,” said Fercho. “A couple of our other neighbors saw the whole attack happening, and their son came out of the house and tried to haze the coyote…and one of the coyote’s charged back at him.”

Fercho also recently had her own personal experience with some coyotes just a few weeks ago. She says that she now believes that hazing doesn’t work on its own.

“Two coyotes came running down…they were in our caul-de-sac,” said Fercho. “When they came close to me, I realized they were coyotes so I started hazing. I was doing some serious hazing; not just shouting, I was honking my horn…even with a blaring horn and me shouting, all the other coyote did was it ran into my neighbor’s yard and tried to hide in the bushes. The other one couldn’t care less and kept trotting along…didn’t even care.”

Fercho says that while she respects the efforts of Mayor Rodriguez, the response is not enough.

“This response to coyotes needs to be multi-tiered, needs to include not just a city-wide response, it needs to include a regional response,” said Fercho.

Fercho is also increasingly frustrated that cities are hesitant to move on the issue for fear of backlash from animal rights activists.

“It’s pretty concerning to all of us why cities aren’t more proactive about protecting us, and the encroachment of coyotes into our territory,” said Fercho.

“It is inevitable that we are going to need to trap and euthanize or eliminate the problem coyotes, and that includes coyotes that are attacking pets…when they get comfortable enough to come onto our property to attack and hunt on our properties, that’s encroachment that we cannot permit.”

Unfortunately, Rodriguez says that it’s a lot more involved than just getting rid of each animal, and the city is trying to avoid spending tax dollars on costly lawsuits, or on a large number of potentially inefficient traps.

 A coyote roams an Irvine neighborhood on Monday, August  21, 2017.  (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“I agree that we have to take action – and I think that we are – but I think there is an appropriate action versus hysterical reaction,” said Rodriguez. “There’s an ecosystem there somewhere; there’s a balance in there somewhere.”

“What we’re trying to do is be intelligent as well as aggressive, because the last thing we want to do is spend tax dollars on a lawsuit. Any defense lawyer will tell you that any amount of defense for any court action, any litigation, starts at $50,000. That’s tax dollars…I’m very careful how we spend tax dollars.”

Rodriguez’s own experiences using a coyote trap proved to be less than fruitful in addition to being expensive, only catching an opossum and being duped by a raccoon to the tune of around $250.

“If you take a look at, say, the 100 coyote sightings in the last three years and we go back to every one of those locations and put a trap for a month – 100 times $200 – that’s a lot of money.”

While there have been a fair number of pets that have been killed by coyotes, Rodriguez says that there has yet to be a human victim in Downey.

“In reality, how many dog bites have there been in comparison to coyote bites,” said Rodriguez. “Over 20,000, and dogs are domesticated. A wild animal knows enough to get away from danger for themselves.”

In addition, Rodriguez says that he feels the city has already seen improvement on the issue.

“I think we’re already seeing a difference. We’ve never had a mapping program before,” said Rodriguez. “The coyote mapping program, anyone can upload it on their computer. Now we want to change that so that it can be on our phones…if we needed to set traps or be a little more aggressive, we’re actually not in the dark now. We know now, we’re gathering intel.”

“I think we’re already starting to see the change…we have to be careful that we don’t fall into that hype…I think it’s a little exaggerated. I think there’s an education component that’s lacking. We need to educate our people more.”

NewsAlex Dominguez