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WARNING ON WILY COYOTES BREEDING BRINGS CRITTERS CLOSER TO HOMES.

Byline: Dana Bartholomew Staff Writer

It's breeding season for coyotes, and state Fish and Game officials are warning residents to use more caution as mother coyotes sneak closer to homes to find food for their pups.

In urban areas, coyote mothers get more aggressive as they search for food, and can hunt cats and dogs and even attack small children, officials said.

``We're trying to instill the fear back into the coyotes,'' said Lt. Kent Smirl of the department's South Coast region. ``Squirt them with a garden hose, or throw something. ... Yell, scream, whatever you can do to look larger than a coyote.''

The department said coyotes might be more prevalent in neighborhoods around areas disrupted by last fall's wildfires. Residents should always avoid feeding coyotes, but especially over the next few months, when the chance of spotting the small, wolfish animal increases sharply.

``They're cute, they're wild and we want to keep them that way,'' department spokesman Steve Martarano said.

Over the next several weeks, females are bearing litters of three to nine pups. To avoid problems, officials suggest the following:

--Never feed a coyote. Secure pet food and garbage. Feed pets indoors; bring in bird feeders at night. Pick up dropped fruit.

--Clear brush and weeds, which attract rodents and the coyotes that hunt them.

--Protect children. Although attacks are rare, coyotes have been known to seriously injure youngsters.

--Protect pets. Cats, small dogs and rabbits are easy prey and are best kept indoors at night. Having lights and motion detectors on property helps keep pets safe.

A member of the dog family and native to California, the coyote is a nocturnal animal not protected by law. Coyotes are very adaptable and love fruit, avocados and the berries from ficus trees.

A recent study found there have been 89 reported coyote attacks on people in California between the late 1970s and 2003, with almost 80 percent occurring in the past 10 years and 63 percent of them during breeding season.

In the event of an attack, call 911.

In Los Angeles, firearm laws prevent residents from shooting coyotes. It is also against state law to feed predators, including coyotes.

``Poison is probably the worst, when people take matters into their own hands, because it doesn't discriminate,'' said Department of Fish and Game Lt. Martin Wall of Santa Clarita. ``Somebody may want to kill a coyote, but (the poison) can also kill their neighbor's cat or dog.''

For information on how to deal with coyotes, go to www.acwm.co.la.ca.us/scripts/coyo.htm. Those with additional concerns about coyotes can call the Department of Fish and Game South Coast region office at (858) 467-4201 or (909) 597-9823.

Dana Bartholomew, (818) 713-3730

dana.bartholomew(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Adorable coyote pups - such as this one - should never be approached, warn local wildlife officials.

Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 17, 2004
Words:483
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