Hey, it’s not just me. Freezing in my woodstove-heated office. Trying to keep my turtle Lazarus from hibernating. It’s coyotes slinking into Los Angeles, exactly as we saw last year on the big screen, in the rather unsettling movie Collateral.
In truth, coyotes almost never attack, perhaps because they remember what happened to the last species that dared attack humans in California–the grizzly bear. Nonetheless, coyotes in the city have freaked out the easily-startled residents of Hancock Park, L.A., who casually accept 4,000 pound luxury automobiles hurtling by at high rates of speed, but are scared by 50-pound canines.
Why are these coyotes appearing? Could it be drought? In an El Nino year? That’s what the experts say. Right now most of California is either abnormally dry (yellow) in drought (beige) or severe drought (brown). We’ll be hearing more about this before long, I’m sure.
UPDATE: The LATimes runs a hugely helpful column from Ed Boks, who runs animal control services in the city, explaining the nature of coyotes in the city. Crucial quote:
Killing coyotes has the unintended consequence of producing more coyotes, not fewer. Mother Nature provided them with a powerful survival mechanism: Smaller social group size increases the food-per-coyote ratio, and this food surplus biologically triggers larger litters and higher litter survival rates.
Even if we wanted to trap or kill all the coyotes in a designated area, history shows the vacancy won’t last. Coyotes, like the rest of nature, abhor a vacuum. Larger litters rebuild the population and, with no rivals to keep them at bay, coyotes from the surrounding areas move right in. The end result of these futile eradication efforts is always the same: The area is quickly overrun…with new coyotes.
Coyotes — once largely confined to the northwestern corner of the continental U.S. — can now be found in L.A.’s Griffith Park and New York’s Central Park, in snowy Alaska and sultry Florida.