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Coyote attacks prompt action in Griffith Park

After two people are bitten in less than month, trappers are called in and kill seven of the animals.

September 21, 2009|Tony Barboza

A man reported being attacked by a coyote in Griffith Park last week, wildlife officials said.

The man, who was lying down near the Travel Town area Wednesday night, reported waking up to find a coyote biting his foot, but he was not seriously injured, said Kevin Brennan, a wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game.

The attack was the second reported in less than a month in the 4,210-acre, chaparral-covered park. Wildlife authorities learned from Los Angeles County health officials last week that another person had been bitten in the park in late August.

In response, wardens dispatched U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife services trappers, who roved the park Thursday and Sunday, trapping and lethally shooting seven of the animals. The agency's policy is to capture and kill coyotes only if there's an imminent threat to public safety. "Somebody getting bitten is an imminent threat," Brennan said.

But because authorities learned of the attacks too late to swab the victim for coyote DNA, they will never know if they nabbed the biter.

"It's been a while since we've had a bite here in Southern California, which is good. That's the way we like to see things," Brennan said. "But almost every day someone's losing pets to coyotes."

A 2004 study by the University of California's Hopland Research and Extension Center found coyote aggression and attacks on people and pets on the rise in the state, particularly in the Southland's "suburban-wild land interface" areas.

Pop singer Jessica Simpson's dog, a 5-year-old Maltese-poodle mix named Daisy, was snatched by a coyote outside her Los Angeles home Monday. Brennan said another 3-year-old "maltipoo" was taken in the jaws of a coyote right in front of its owner two nights later in the Hollywood Hills area.

As drought, development and wildfires have depleted their natural habitat, coyotes have adapted by scrounging for food and shelter in suburban backyards and parks. But there are many measures homeowners can take to make the creatures unwelcome.

What can I do to keep coyotes out of my yard?

Food and water lure coyotes. Don't leave pet food or water outside. Cover your compost and keep trash in clean containers with tight-fitting lids. Keep barbecue grills clean, limit the use of bird feeders, and pick up fallen fruit. Install motion-sensitive lighting and coyote-proof fencing if they continue to be pests.

How can I keep my children and pets safe?

Never allow young children to play outside unsupervised. Don't leave pets outdoors unattended, especially cats and small dogs. If you must keep them outside, confine your animals in sturdy kennels at least 6 feet high.

What should I do if a coyote approaches my home?

Immediately take pets and small children inside. Then make loud noises -- perhaps by banging pots and pans together -- or spray the animal with a garden hose or throw rocks toward it. That probably will drive the coyote away and help it retain its natural wariness of humans.

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tony.barboza@latimes.com

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