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Griffith Park visitors warned against feeding wildlife

The move was prompted by coyote attacks on two people in September. Feeding coyotes in the park is illegal and carries a fine of up to $1,000 and jail time.

November 24, 2009|By Nicole Santa Cruz

Concerned about the safety of park visitors, Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge on Monday erected the first of dozens of signs urging the public not to feed the wildlife in Griffith Park.

The decision was prompted after two visitors were bitten by coyotes in separate incidents in September, officials said. The two attacks initially sparked a controversial eradication effort in which hunters shot and killed eight coyotes in the 4,210-acre park.

The eradication effort ended after two days.

Before climbing a ladder and bolting a sign off Zoo Drive, LaBonge said visitors might think they're helping the coyotes by feeding them scraps such as sandwiches or chicken bones but that feeding the animals only disrupts their natural habitat.

"We have to respect the wildlife and nature to a greater degree," LaBonge said.

Feeding the coyotes is illegal and carries a fine of up to $1,000 and jail time, LaBonge said.

More than 70 signs will be installed in the park, mainly in popular areas such as trail heads and picnic locations. LaBonge said the signs were a direct response to the eradication effort.

Gregory Randall, the wildlife specialist for the city, said it's hard to gauge how many coyotes live in Griffith Park, but that between 4,000 and 7,000 are believed to live in the Los Angeles area.

Randall said feeding coyotes can create a dependency that causes coyotes to attack people while looking for food. "They don't need our help, they need to survive on their own," he said.

Tom McCall, the principal grounds maintenance supervisor for the park, said the Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busier times of year for the park, especially when the weather is warm. The Griffith Observatory is expecting 12,000 to 15,000 visitors this weekend, he said.

Hal Vickroy, of Chatsworth, said he visits the park about four times a week. He said he's seen people feeding the coyotes and will sometimes caution them against it. "It's a common-sense factor," he said. "If you're feeding wildlife, it breaks the chain."

Evet Ebrahimian, of Glendale, said she runs through the park everyday and usually comes across coyotes in the late afternoon.

She said she would never feed the animals.

"Why would you mess with coyotes?" she said.

LaBonge, who hikes in the park every day, said he often sees coyotes.

"I never feed them, we just say hi to each other," he said.

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

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