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Valley Focus | CAMARILLO

Chicken Will Play Chicken to Snare Coyote

January 07, 1998|DAWN HOBBS

It just does not seem like a good year to be a chicken--whether in Asia or Ventura County.

While the poor poultry are being slaughtered for carrying an infectious disease in Hong Kong, they're being used as bait to trap coyotes that have been coming down from the hills in Camarillo recently.

Ventura County Animal Regulation officials say the chickens will be protected in cages--although being within inches of wily coyote's fangs will be an adventure, officials concede.

Department education officer Patrick Musone has spent the last several days preparing the foliage-camouflaged cage. Today he plans to set it up with the pioneer chicken, the Colonel, at a house on Las Tuero Court where a coyote recently broke into a cage and killed a rabbit.

Later the trap will be moved to other homes in Camarillo where coyotes have been spotted, Musone said. Eventually it will be moved to Oxnard and the foothills of Ventura.

The "Acme Coyote Trap," which took Musone two weeks to design, lures coyotes with the recorded sound of an animal in distress and the captive chicken. Once the coyote enters, it is trapped in a wire box and separated from its intended meal by a solid door.

While waiting for the coyote, the Colonel will have water and food to snack on. And once the trap door is down, a red flag will shoot up--indicating a successful snare. Each morning Musone will recharge the recorder's batteries and check on the Colonel.

"Someone will probably complain about us using chickens, but what are our options? We don't want to start shotgunning--we want to relocate."

Musone says he is reluctant to kill any coyotes because they are natural allies against ground erosion given that their diet consists mainly of rodents that erode soil.

Instead, they will be moved to less populated areas in the county where plenty of ground squirrels, other rodents and water are available.

"I'd rather have people learn how to deal with them . . . to coexist," he said, adding that problems could be curtailed if people did not leave garbage, pets or pet food out at night.

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