It's always sad when a beloved family pet becomes dinner for local wildlife, but is trapping and killing wildlife the answer? One Southern California community thinks so.
In Seal Beach, a coastal community in Orange County south of Los Angeles, people are tired of losing their pets to coyotes. So the City Council agreed at a meeting earlier this week to put a trap-and-kill plan into action.
Here are two reasons why that's a dumb idea.
First, it's not the coyotes' fault. If pet owners were more responsible about looking after their pets, such as keeping them inside when not supervised, and did more work to ensure that they were not creating a hospitable environment for coyotes, such as by having locking trash cans, then the coyotes would not have learned to capitalize upon so easy a food source. The LA Times reports that residents feel that coyotes have "become too brazen." The unfortunate truth, instead, is that humans have become too careless.
It's like this: imagine laying out a kids' buffet, ringing the dinner bell, expecting the kids to only serve themselves the salad, and then being surprised when the cookies and ice cream disappear as well. We share ecosystems with wildlife, whether we choose to or not. It is better to learn to co-exist peacefully with our neighborhood predators than to try to kill them all. Culls just don't work.
Second, the trap-and-kill program could have the unintended effect of simply removing the coyotes who are not clever enough to avoid traps. That's according to Tim Revell, a Mount San Antonio College Professor of Biology, who served on the Seal Beach task force and spoke to the LA Times: "weaker coyotes that pose less of a problem tend to be the ones that get caught up in the traps, leaving larger packs of smarter, more aggressive coyotes." That would only serve to exacerbate the problem.
There is, at least, one smart component to the plan. "The task force recommended the city clean up overgrown areas were coyotes take shelter," according to the LA Times report, "mandate that all trash cans be covered, and impose fines of up to $100 on residents who directly or indirectly feed the animals."
If you live in an area shared with coyotes or other mesopredators, here are some more strategies for avoiding conflicts: keep pet food inside; don't feed stray animals, including stray cats and dogs; pick up fallen fruit from trees in your yard. If predators don't have a reason to forage in your backyard, then there's a far lower likelihood that a family pet will meet such an unfortunate end.
If the community of Seal Beach had instituted those sorts of policies years ago, then they might not now feel as if they have no choice but to kill a bunch of coyotes who are just trying to survive in an environment increasingly degraded by human activities.
Header image: A coyote photographed in Beverly Hills, CA via jczart/Wikimedia Commons.