Coyotes cause chaos for some lake Tahoe residents |

Coyotes cause chaos for some lake Tahoe residents

by Andy Bourelle

El Dorado County Supervisor Dave Solaro has received a number of faxes and phone calls in recent weeks from people concerned about coyotes.

There are too many of the animals now, people say, and they are too bold and show no fear of humans. They’ve killed pets, even eaten them off of leashes. The horror stories go on.

Solaro says the best way to handle the situation is by better educating Lake Tahoe’s residents. Coyotes have learned they can get quick and easy meals by tearing into garbage cans, raiding outside pet food containers and even killing domestic cats and dogs.

People should be more careful with their garbage and pets, and always keep in mind that this is coyote country. Reducing the easy accessibility of food should encourage coyotes to leave urban areas.

“What we want to try to do is inform the public and educate them as to what’s causing the coyotes to come into urban areas and ways to prevent what’s happening – primarily the loss of pets,” Solaro said.

South Lake Tahoe resident Ramona Kluever lost her dog about one month ago to a coyote. The Pomeranian, named Munchkin, was outside for only about 45 seconds, she said, before a coyote snatched him and carried him away.

“I just think there’s too many of them now,” said Kluever, a 20-year resident. “They’re so brazen. They’re taking little animals off of leashes. I’ve heard some real horror stories.”

She never found any trace of Munchkin.

“I don’t know what the solution is,” Kluever said. “I don’t want them to go out and kill them all, but there has to be some control.”

Coyotes, wild animals in the dog family, are common in most of California.

Their presence at Tahoe has often made headlines and television news stories.

In February 1997 a 4-year-old was mauled by a coyote outside her family’s vacation rental on Saddle Road. The coyote was shot by the responding officer. The girl survived, but needed nearly 60 sutures to close the wounds. Shortly after the attack, a neighbor told officials that some of the residents had been leaving food out for wild animals.

After a series of bites in the Stateline area earlier this year, El Dorado County Animal Control and Nevada Animal Damage Control officials killed several coyotes in that area.

More recently, coyotes on Lake Tahoe Airport runways that disrupted takeoffs and landings led to a series of discussions with city officials and local wildlife experts. Airport officials now are having a special $150,000 fence installed that the coyotes shouldn’t be able to dig under or leap over.

“It will work,” said Janis Brand, airport management assistant. “It won’t keep all the coyotes out. Coyotes will wait until someone opens a gate and sneak around the corner. But it will keep the large groups out that we were having problems with.”

Brand, a 20-year resident of Tahoe, said she hasn’t had any problems at her home but believes coyotes now, more than before, are becoming a problem.

“The more they’re around humans, it’s not a strange, fearful thing for them,” she said. “In my yard in the Tahoe Keys, we don’t allow our pets out unless we’ve got an eye on them.”

Brand said the answer is probably having a large “basin-kill” and then letting the population gradually grow back.

“I think that is the solution, but we can’t do it,” she said. “State law won’t allow it. That’s what we wanted to do here, and they wouldn’t allow it.”

Cheryl Millham, executive director of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, said that is not the answer.

“People want to shoot them just because they see them in the middle of the day. That thinking is just ridiculous,” she said.

And it’s counter-productive, Millham says. Coyotes live in packs, where only one alpha pair breed. In a situation where the animals are being killed, all of the coyotes in the pack will then breed.

“Coyotes have only killed one person in the recorded history of the U.S. Domestic dogs kill 25 to 30 people a year,” she said.

“When a dog bites a human, they don’t go out and kill 19 Rottweilers. They kill the dog that did the damage, and they should kill the coyote that did the damage, but not 19,” she added.

Millham, who has been caring for injured or sick wild animals for more than 20 years at Tahoe, agrees with Solaro that education is the solution. Trash should be handled in a way that coyotes can’t get to it; if people feed their pets outside, the food should be brought back inside.

And never feed wildlife.

“People seem to think wildlife needs help getting food; they don’t,” she said.

“That’s how we get bears killed; that’s how we get coyotes killed.”

Millham said she doesn’t believe, as many now do, that the number of coyotes at Tahoe have increased nor that the animals have become more aggressive.

“They are not being more aggressive. People see them in the middle of the day and panic,” she said. “They’re not being more aggressive, they’re just being themselves.”

“There are coyotes in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento,” she added. “There are coyotes all over the U.S. and even up in Alaska and down in Mexico. We don’t just have coyotes at Tahoe.”

How to reduce coyote problems:

– Pet food and water should be removed or kept indoors at night.

– Keep garbage cans covered with secure lids.

– Never intentionally leave food out for coyotes.

– Enclose yards with coyote-proof fences. Fence specifications are available from the El Dorado County Department of Agriculture.

– Cats and small dogs should not be left out after dark. If cats cannot be contained indoors, 7-foot-high posts can be installed in open-space areas which provide an escape mechanism for cats. There must be enough space on top of the post for the cat to sit.

– Unnecessary brush should be cleared from back yards to eliminate hiding cover used by coyotes to stalk domestic pets.

More information is available by calling the El Dorado County Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services can be reached for , (530) 621-5520, or accessing the World Wide Web: