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Coyotes in Canyon
Julie Maxey-Allison | 10th Street

Can you spot the coyote hidden in the brush?
Photo illustration Virginia Lawrence
and Julie Maxey-Allison.
Click to enlarge.

Our backyard, Crest Canyon, where the hillsides slope down into the gully between Del Mar and Del Mar Hills, is home to a community of animals and resident birds whose migrating relatives stop over on their journeys along the Pacific Flyway. The birds, raccoons, skunks, rats, rabbits, squirrels, birds and snakes, yes, rattlesnakes share this bit of wild open land preserved from development in the 1970’s by local activists. So do coyotes. And, lately, a bobcat has been spotted.

There is food in the canyon. The coyotes, and perhaps that bobcat, most active from dusk to dawn, feast on those rats, squirrels, rabbits, snakes and efficiently clean up any carrion in this complex territory.

While the birds are above it all, the canyon animals are getting used to living in the shadows of humans. Though they aren’t interested in us, they have learned that we have easily available food they like to feast on. The smaller animals take nocturnal trips to our houses to forage, digging in our gardens and rummaging through our trash bins. A nuisance enough. But, native coyotes, whose name is derived from the Aztec coyotl, are more than just a nuisance to those who live on or around the rim of the canyon. As their wild habitat shrinks, these “prairie wolves” adeptly adapt to suburban and city living and have been making themselves pretty much at home in the backyards of houses ringing their canyon. Always on the lookout for food, these opportunists snatch fruit from the trees and, alas, have a taste for small pet dogs and cats.

They are savvy enough to have survived and thrived in spite of efforts to get rid of them for many, many years. If/when some coyotes are successfully captured or killed, lowering their numbers, the remaining females take advantage of the extra available food to produce larger litters.

To cut risks of a visit from a coyote (and other animals as well), remove all enticing outdoor food. This includes low hanging fruit or fruit dropped to the ground, open garbage bins and compost containers, pet food, and your pets. Protect your pets: know where they are at all times and keep them safely inside at night. If a coyote should come around, stand tall, wave your arms, and yell at the coyote, move toward it if necessary, until it runs away. Repeat as necessary.

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