13 May 2008

Coyote Attacks Studied

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AP reports that the recent wave of coyote attacks on small children in the Greater Los Angeles is part of a larger pattern, and is now the subject of academic study.

The coyote was limping as it approached a girl in a sand box at a public park — but it was still dangerous. It snapped its jaws on the girl’s buttocks and her nanny had to pry the toddler from the wild animal.

Less than a week later, a coyote in a mountain resort town some 35 miles away grabbed a girl by the head and tried to drag her from a front yard until her mother scared it away.

A spate of coyote attacks in the fast-growing suburbs east of Los Angeles have left parents on edge and puzzled wildlife officials.

“Their aggressive behavior seems to be on the upswing,” said Steve Martarano, a spokesman with the state Department of Fish and Game. “They just seem to lose their fear of humans.” …

“We’re not sure what pushes them over the edge,” said Robert Timm, a wildlife specialist with the University of California system. “There may be no single explanation for it.” …

Since last year, there have been seven coyote attacks in the Chino Hills area, including four in which children were bitten. State wildlife officials have killed 23 coyotes to protect the public.

Timm, the University of California scientist, said coyotes behave in predictable ways when they turn aggressive such as snatching pets during the daytime or chasing joggers and bicyclists.

If people recognize these signs, they may be able to thwart an attack, he said.

Timm has created a Web site, CoyoteBytes.org, where residents in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties can report coyote bites or sightings. Scientists use the information to study the scope of the problem.

It isn’t really terribly confusing, actually. Today’s America, in the West, frequently features the close proximity of Nature in the wild with dense urban areas. Nobody in California’s cities and suburbs has the old-fashioned 12 gauge shotgun propped up behind the kitchen door ready for invading predators. Without hunting pressure to make Western predators fearful of human beings, they will inevitably grow bolder over time and sooner or later incidents of human predation will occur.

Hat tip to Frank Dobbs.

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