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Life, Death and Coyotes at Evergreen Cemetery

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Published as part of an environmental storytelling partnership with the Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS) at UCLA, with extensive contributions from faculty and MFA students in UCLA’s documentary film program in the School of Theater, Film and Television. The second storyline considers how Los Angeles has inadvertently become a sanctuary city for non-native animal species that are sometimes endangered in their native habitats. Find more Urban Ark stories here.

Road with red flowers | Chase Alexander

Evergreen Cemetery, in Boyle Heights, is the oldest cemetery in Los Angeles and one of the largest with over 300,000 graves. 

Japanese graves | Chase Alexander

Different sections of the cemetery are home to graves from Los Angeles’ many cultural communities. 

Coyote between graves | Chase Alexander

The cemetery is also habitat for several coyotes, who are especially active in the early morning.

Three grounds keepers on a break | Chase Alexander

Three of the groundskeepers at Evergreen, Elias, José, and Juan (from left to right), frequently see the coyotes. José, who has worked at the cemetery for 25 years, says the coyotes appeared here about two years ago during a large fire in the surrounding mountains.

Water basin | Chase Alexander

The groundskeepers place small receptacles under the cemetery spigots to catch dripping water, convenient watering holes for the coyotes.

Coyote with cat in mouth | Chase Alexander

The coyotes use the cemetery and surrounding neighborhood as a hunting ground. This coyote is just returning to the cemetery with a dead cat. 

Dead cat | Chase Alexander

The appearance of the cat’s cadaver suggests that it was caught and killed by the coyote, rather than picked up as roadkill.

Coyote without squirrel | Chase Alexander

Squirrels, another coyote prey, are sometimes too fast and agile to catch.

Squirrel | Chase Alexander

This squirrel, having escaped from a coyote, looks down from the safety of a palm tree at its despondent predator. 

Burger on the grave | Chase Alexander

Human food left at the cemetery is also quite often eaten by its nonhuman inhabitants.

Pizza vigil | Chase Alexander

Some of the food offerings that are left for dead loved ones no doubt end up being enjoyed by coyotes.

Kestrals on an angel's wings | Chase Alexander

Birds of prey also visit the cemetery as a rich hunting ground. Two American kestrels, the smallest and most common falcon in North America, perch together on the wings of a stone angel.

Coyote sleeping in the afternoon | Chase Alexander

In the late afternoon sun, coyotes often sleep peacefully among the gravestones.

Coyote wakes from nap | Chase Alexander

At my approach, this coyote got up and ambled away.

Coyote den | Chase Alexander

A coyote has dug a den near a grave stone that extends to the space underneath the root of a large nearby tree. The cemetery groundskeepers believe the female coyote is pregnant and will soon deliver a litter, giving birth to new life among the dead.

Coyote moving along fence | Chase Alexander

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