by Chris O’Neal
The cry of a pack of coyotes is not unfamiliar to county residents, especially those living within proximity of the hillsides. Portrayed as wily in cartoons, tricky in Native American mythology and considered a nuisance by modern pet owners, the coyote has a mixed reputation. Tonight (Thursday, June 30), coyote expert David Lee will give a presentation on the much-maligned predator – and tips on how we can coexist.
Lee, a senior biologist with Davey Resource Group, recently launched a website under the name Ventura Wildlife Guru which features videos and photos of coyotes, bobcats and other wildlife captured by his cameras in the hills behind his home nestled against the Ventura hillside.
“There is quite a healthy population,” said Lee of the number of coyotes living locally. “One of the things we’re doing with our camera study is to get more specifics and to be able to recognize individuals.”
Coyotes are very adaptable and can learn the ins and outs of their environment quickly. Lee says that the coyotes around his home have learned when the sprinkler system is activated and show up for a drink on schedule. It’s when coyotes enter into human territory that conflicts, as Lee calls them, can occur.
In November of 2015, Ventura County Animal Services warned Ventura homeowners east of Victoria Avenue to keep pets indoors after several reports of coyote attacks, some resulting in loss. In 2004, a Simi Valley 3-year-old was mauled by a coyote as it tried to drag the boy off his front porch – resulting in police killing the animal.
Lee says that as humans and coyotes interact, the animals can lose their instilled fear of humans and become more brazen. In order to prevent that from happening, through the Ventura Wildlife Guru project Lee has begun visiting homes and giving advice on how to make human domiciles less attractive to coyotes.
“There are certain ways you can modify your landscape so you can reduce the amount of prey that are attracted or available to a coyote,” said Lee, such as putting garbage for collection out in the morning hours when coyotes and other predators (such as raccoons and bobcats) are asleep, installing kennels for outdoor pets and motion-sensing lights.
“Our philosophy is that we’re lucky to have these large predators and to see them and be around them; it’s a privilege,” said Lee. “If we can find ways to peacefully coexist with them, it’ll be the best outcome for everybody.”
Lee will present “Coexisting with Coyotes” at 7 p.m. at the Poinsettia Pavilion, 3451 Foothill Road, Ventura. The event may reach max capacity; call ahead before arriving. For more information on the event, visit www.venturahillsides.org/events. For more information on Lee and the Ventura Wildlife Guru project, visit www.venturawildlifeguru.net.