ANIMAL WATCH - Actor Travis Van Winkle, most recently known for the TV thriller series, You, captured images and video of two coyotes which he reports attempted to attack his dog, Karen, on January 23, as they were hiking during daytime at Griffith Park in the Hollywood-Los Feliz area of Los Angeles.
Travis is warning others of the unexpected danger when he suddenly saw the coyotes encircling Karen, and his spontaneous reaction, which caused him to suffer an injury to his leg as he slid down the side of a hill to save his beloved pet. Karen is reportedly a “rescue” dog he adopted as a puppy in 2020.
“If you’re hiking with your dog up here at Griffith Park, be very careful,” he said in the video posted to Instagram. “Two coyotes … came after her. One almost got her leg. I had to slide down the mountain, literally screaming at the top of my lungs.” (See video here.)
Several commenters note that it appears Karen was a considerable distance away from Travis, which is why he had to slide down the hill to reach her, and this would indicate that she was probably not on leash, which is the law in the park and elsewhere in Los Angeles. The good news is that Travis and Karen are well and together after this harrowing event.
We don't know exactly why the menacing coyotes targeted Karen (as a “rescue,” it is likely she was spayed) but park visitors and local residents say coyotes are increasing in parks throughout California, which intensifies their searches for food and causes this nocturnal animal to roam the park during daytime hours, as well as the customary sightings at dusk and after dark.
But, at this time of year, there is also another reason coyotes are out and about, and that is related to mating.
Although, in a purportedly enlightened city, we tend to only think of this as wild animals sharing (or invading) human territory, coyote mating season peaks in late winter and can lure the most loyal domestic dogs to their deaths.
THE SCENT OF A FEMALE
Coyotes are canines, as are domestic dogs. If you live in the city of Los Angeles, it is important to know that L.A. Animal Services has continually diminished its dog-licensing efforts and enforcement of the mandatory spay/neuter law for any dog/cat over four months of age. And, LAAS has issued almost double the number of breeding permits from last year. This means those owners either deliberately intend to breed or are willing to pay for maintaining their dogs’ breeding capabilities. There are also no City records nor tax requirements or enforcement regarding breeding and/or selling puppies--or any other species-- in the city. (For more enlightenment on the magnitude of this activity, Google “dog breeders in Los Angeles.”)
This also means the scent of potential mating opportunities with unspayed domestic female dogs all over the city is also picked up by pervasive male coyotes and is a powerful enticement to ignore obstacles, including walls, fences and overcome their innate fear of humans, as they are drawn to specific homes/yards by in-heat females. This is also a danger to children who may try to protect a pet.
MATING SEASON EMBOLDENS COYOTES
A very important coyote advisory issued by the St. Joseph Township and posted on-line contains valuable advice which should be adapted, shared and broadcast all over the nation, especially with the diminished presence and authority of local animal control agencies regarding wildlife issues:
The next 4-6 weeks is mating season for coyotes (late January through February.) Do not let your dogs out alone and don’t allow your outdoor cats to roam.
Although coyotes are prevalent in outlying and rural areas, they’re also thriving in suburban and urban areas, and smaller towns as well.
Coyote breeding typically peaks in late February and early March, the gestation period averages 58 to 63 days.
Male coyotes can become more aggressive during this time of year.
The long and short of it all is that coyotes always pose a risk to your dog (and other small pets), but that risk increases during mating season.
- Also, both male and female coyotes can become more aggressive after the birth of the pups as they search for food for their growing youngsters and then teach them to hunt/forage.
Spay or neuter your pet.
Coyotes are attracted to and can mate with un-spayed or unneutered domestic dogs. Un-spayed female dogs in season can attract male coyotes.
Unneutered male dogs can be lured away by the scent of a female coyote in her ovulation cycle.
Additionally, male dogs can be lured by the female coyote’s scent and killed or seriously wounded by male coyotes.
Coyotes learn your schedule.
Be mindful that clever coyotes learn daily schedules of people and their pets. If you let your dog out (or walk him/her) every evening at 9 p.m., chances are a local coyote is well aware of your routine.
A coyote might be waiting in the shadows at 9 p.m. sharp; so change your schedule a bit. Always walk your dog on leash close to you, and keep a close eye on them at all times.
Coyote caution tips reminder:
- Never feed coyotes – It is illegal to feed coyotes in most places (including the City of Los Angeles). Feeding endangers your family and neighbors as it lures coyotes into neighborhoods. (It can also make coyotes more aggressive as they come to expect food from humans.)
- Do not feed any animal outside, including feral cats, because coyotes can be attracted to the location—by the cats and, inevitably, rats--which is often in a business or residential area. (This is dangerous for the cats and humans.)
- Keep unattended cats and dogs indoors or in completely enclosed runs, especially at night, and do not assume that a fence will keep a coyote out of your backyard.
- Accompany your leashed pet outside.If it is dark, make sure you turn outside lights on to check your backyard for unexpected wildlife.
- Keep dogs on short leashes while walking outside. Most jurisdictions recommend (and/or the law requires) a leash no longer than six feet.
- Keep noisemakers such as whistles and horns on handto scare away coyotes that may enter your yard.
- Yell, clap your hands, blow a whistle and try to make yourself look larger if you have a close encounter with a coyote.
Credit: Main source - St. Joseph Township pdf)
LOS ANGELES FAILING TO PROVIDE SERVICES
Licensing, which provides the means of tracking the number of dogs (altered and in-tact) in the City and assuring current rabies vaccinations, is dismal.
Thus, the ability to enforce L.A.’s spay/neuter mandate for all dogs (and cats) over four months of age is tragically almost non-existent in the city, where many households keep more than three dogs (and can have up to five cats). This lack of professionalism and management skill began with the hiring of GM Brenda Barnette in 2010 and has declined steadily with the mass exodus from LAAS by experienced supervisors and Animal Control Officers.
Efforts for curtailing breeding of dogs (and cats) have failed, partially due to the failure at Los Angeles Animal Services to enforce the City’s spay/neuter mandate for ALL owned dogs and cats over four months of age and verifying that for dogs through licensing, (which also records rabies vaccinations.)
In addition L.A. implemented a policy of not accepting lost/stray dogs without an appointment, which can mean keeping the strange dog for at least two weeks or following the “no kill” suggestion of just turning it loose in the streets
LAAS current policy also advises finders who find a lost/stray dog to try to find it a new home through social media or release it back into the street for the owner to find, without entering a shelter where it would be altered and vaccinated.
Los Angeles Animal Services has abandoned its program of a Wildlife Officer visiting communities and appearing at public meetings upon request to advise on safety from and for wildlife, opting for an on-line platform with general information.
A phone call this week to LAAS confirmed also that officers do not respond to coyote sightings, and attacks by coyotes are handled by the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife. Because CDFW officers are spread very thinly across the State they also do not respond to coyote calls unless there has been an actual injury to a human. So, residents are essentially on their own for safety. This makes it doubly important to know how to protect your family and pets and what can help lower the danger of coyotes coming to your community.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a contributor to CityWatch and a former Los Angeles City employee.)