Outcry from pet owners over coyotes: Children could also be at risk
Chuck Leonard is incensed after losing his dachshund, Bijou, three weeks ago to a coyote.
Bijou had just given birth to four puppies. The Leonards left her at their home in the Tahoe Valley neighborhood, where she could come and go freely through the doggy door. When they returned, she was gone without a trace.
Their neighbor witnessed a coyote run off with her.
Leonard is concerned the canines have lost their fear of humans in Tahoe. Unlike other rural areas, it is illegal to shoot a firearm in most Tahoe areas of El Dorado County because of the risk of fire, according to Lt. Les Lovell.
Still, Leonard and others, including property manager Bobby Cole, wonder if it will take a human tragedy before authorities take action.
“I feel the coyotes have more rights than we do,” Cole said. She has a small dog with four puncture scars on its neck from coyote bites.
Cole lives on a meadow and said she’s seen changes in the numbers of birds around.
“We used to have egrets, blue herons in the meadow, and they are all gone,” she said. “There’s no other wildlife anymore.”
Leonard said his son was excited about seeing a coyote in the Tahoe Valley Elementary School parking lot a few days after Bijou was snatched.
Principal Mark Romagnolo said he’s received calls from concerned parents, and has told his staff to immediately report any coyote sightings. So far this year, only one has been spotted on the far side of the playground, inside the fence. The children were gathered on the tarmac, and the coyote soon disappeared.
In past years, coyotes have been seen passing through on the other side of the fence, Romagnolo said.
California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Foy said if there is an immediate public safety concern involving wildlife, people should call 911. Law enforcement will involve Animal Control and Fish and Game when appropriate. For damage to private property like pets, USDA should be contacted at (530) 621-5520.
Lovell said there is an exception to the firearm rule when there is an immediate threat to life or property, including pets.
“Then it’s fair game, it’s a public safety exception,” he said. “There always an exception in the case of an emergency to protect life or property.”
Leonard said a public safety concern is already here. Coyotes are flourishing to unnaturally high numbers by feeding on neighborhood pets, and there’s no telling when they will start on our children, he said.
A child was mauled in Tahoe in 1997 by a coyote. The child was wearing a fur-lined coat. A woman was attacked by a coyote recently in Gardnerville.
Lovell said if an animal exhibits clearly aggressive behavior, that’s when there is a public safety concern.
“The bottom line is we live in a rural area and wildlife is going to be here,” Lovell said. “If you have a problem with coyotes in your area, you can contact the county to kill the coyotes. It tends to cause a huge cry in the community.”
Urban legend has it that a trapper once found 100 pet collars in a coyote den in Tahoe. This could not be confirmed through the USDA in Placerville, which employs trapper John Chandler to address coyotes when they have damaged human property, including pets.
To report coyote threats, call USDA at (530) 621-5520.
For non-lethal tips on deterring wildlife, call Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care at (530) 577-CARE.
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