We're grateful to Fox11 News for letting us tell the real story about the Woodland Hills coyote attack.
This coyotes (and its relatives) had been HAND FED by people for the last few months if not longer; officials did not do enough early on or even in the last couple of weeks to stop the behavior from escalating; the church, just a stone's through from where the feeding was happening, hired a trapper months ago and we know at least one coyote was killed, which could have left the pups of the year without adequate leadership.
When I heard about the incident, I drove from Elkhorn to Woodland Hills to do my own investigating, because this was such abnormal behavior, and so profoundly human-related. I wanted to try and put some of the pieces of the puzzle together to help explain it beyond what the news outlets were saying, which was basically, that a coyote attacked another toddler. Nope, that's not the story here!
Come to find out, from canvassing the area, that a couple of people who are living out of their cars, had been hand-feeding coyotes on the backside of a park. Residents reported this to officials months ago bit nothing was done to stop it.
I drove by the house where the incident took place and noticed it was under renovation, with workers outside eating their lunch. It dawned on me, the timing of the attack and knowing how, at construction sites especially, there's so often food and food wrappers left about.
As wildlife detectives, we try and piece together the tangible evidence with our professional evaluation of the animal's behavior. here's one possibility.
The toddler smelled like human food - snacks - stuff the coyote was used to eating. She was wearing a puffy jacket and puffy pants. And in no way am I making fun of the child's appearance, but from the coyote's perspective, it saw/smelled a sack that contained food. I am not sure the coyote realized that was a little human. I could be wrong here, but I believe if this was truly a predatory attack, the coyote would have approached from the front or side and gone for the head/neck of the prey.
Either way, this sort of behavior is not acceptable. And while such food and human conditioning can be reversed through aversion conditioning, there's no time or tolerance for this here. These animals will be destroyed.
I am told at least 5 coyotes have been trapped and killed so far. As awful as it was to see a toddler injured by a coyote, the killing of most, if not all, of the members of this canid family - directly attributable to human behavior, is a real tragedy. And we must stop it from happening again.
As a colleague of mine said, we are "surrogate mentors" for wildlife - we help maintain respectful boundaries. It's our responsibility to behave in such a way that maintains safe distances, never betraying wild animals by tricking them to come close to us for food. Not wildlife photographers, not bird feeders - it's not respectful and can result in the animals being killed, one way or another.
We will be approaching the City of Los Angeles, encouraging the council to adopt a more comprehensive canid response plan with a broader tiered response guidelines and to commit resources to work the plan. The plan is only as valuable as the "paper" it's written on if you don't follow it. We are also staying on top of California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Los Angeles Animal Services and the DA's Office to prosecute the people who were hand feeding the coyotes.
We have a an online petition circulating and we are providing a Zoom presentation to the community to educate them on what to do when they see a coyote in their neighborhood.