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Coyotes Spotted on Los Angeles River Island in Atwater Village

The NELA River Collaborative project builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. For more information on the collaborative visit www.mylariver.org


In the past month, Atwater Villagers have raised concerns about coyotes spotted on the islands on the Los Angeles River between Los Feliz and Glendale Boulevards. As many as six coyotes were spotted romping around the island.

Though some residents may be concerned, Kathleen Bartholomew, 59, grew up in Atwater Village and isn't worried. "They've always been there," she said. "I remember seeing them as a young girl, though it does seem like their numbers have been increasing gradually over the past few decades."

Neighbors see the encroaching coyote population as a consequence of the growing movement to naturalize the Los Angeles River. In the last 20 years, the city of Los Angeles has stopped cutting down trees that have sprouted on the island. The resulting brush has attracted birds, but also predators such as coyotes looking for their next meal.

Instead of worrying about the coyotes, Bartholomew instead focuses on the positive side, that the Los Angeles River is increasingly home to wildlife. "Naturalizing the Los Angeles River is a great idea. It's incredibly good for the animals. You wouldn't believe the number of birds nesting there now," she said .

Though the increasingly natural character of the river may be a factor, the crafty coyote has increasingly been found in various environments around the nation, from "the tundra of Alaska, the tropical forests of Panama and the urban jungle of New York City," according to a Smithsonian Magazine article. It is a species that has proven surprisingly flexible.

In his 12-year tracking research of coyotes, urban ecologist Stan Gehrt has found coyotes to be adaptable and opportunistic. "In adjusting to urban life, they may change dietary items and habitat use, and become nocturnal, whereas in the country they're active day and night. But with other things, they don't change at all. Here, they're able to maintain their social structure, territorialism, packs and mating system, even in the face of all these challenges of trying to live among 9 million people." said Gehrt , basing his statement on research conducted within the Chicago area. His research also found that urban coyote pup survival rates are five times as high as rural pups, even though humans are their primary predator in both cases.

Gehrt points out that coyote eradication programs only add costs, but aren't very effective. "We have great data in areas where removal was done. You pull them out, and literally within just a few weeks, new coyotes moved in and set up a new pack and began reproducing right away."

Though coyotes tend to make humans nervous, they do perform a service to the human population by dining on rodents, which could potentially carry disease. Ken Pellman, spokesman at the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures Department (ACWM), concurs.

"Seeing coyotes is not a problem," said Pellman. His department handles instances of aggressive coyote threats in unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County, as well as cities that contract with their office. "It's only a problem when they approach you without any hesitation." Coyotes are naturally wary of humans and it is only when they associate humans with food do they become a problem.

Pellman warns against leaving food or easily accessed garbage outside for coyote consumption. He points out that feeding coyotes or other wild animals in Los Angeles County is actually against the law. "Coyotes will do just fine without handouts from people."

ACWM has a comprehensive guide for residents on coyotes, which can be found here.

Top: Coyote on an island in the L.A. River, March 2013. Photo by Cosme Quetzal

About the Author

Carren is an art, architecture and design writer and an avid explorer of Los Angeles. Her work has been spotted on Core77, Dwell, Surface Asia, and Fast Co.Design. You can find her online and on Twitter. 
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Coyotes, like many animals, come out more around dawn/dusk or "Crepuscular" times of the day. Their natural hunting time.
Humans may not need to fear coyotes. But having lived in Atwater since the 60s, I have observed that it is not so safe for CATS and other small creatures.
Unfortunately, my sister's beautiful cat was ripped up pretty bad by a coyote (in the back yard). So if you live near areas where the coyotes are present: Be aware of your cats!! and small dogs!!
The good thing is they will eat pesky unwanted rodents.
I have observed many coyotes in Griffith Park. They are pretty brazen when hungry, I have seen them walking close to cars and people. In those instances I think we are more of a threat to them. Cars whiz by those roads and run them down. So please be aware when driving through the park at those Crepuscular times, to watch out for roaming animals.