Westchester-Playa’s Coyote Crier

Posted September 7, 2016 by The Argonaut in News

Suzanne Armstrong and her band of volunteers are going door-to-door warning of a ‘coyote invasion,’ but not everyone’s biting

By Gary Walker

Suzanne Armstrong and her supporters are mapping coyote Photo by Mia Duncans

Suzanne Armstrong and her supporters are mapping coyote
Photo by Mia Duncans

Suzanne Armstrong, like many Westchester residents these past few months, is worried about an increase in coyote sightings there and in neighboring Playa del Rey. And like so many of her neighbors, Armstrong wasn’t sure what to do about them until a neighbor told her about another dead pet on her block.

“I was out walking my dogs and she came up to me and said, ‘Watch your animals — a coyote just killed my cat,’” Armstrong said. “I had been hearing about coyotes on our streets and seeing pictures of cats and small dogs [that were] killed. As an animal lover, I was horrified.”

Sounding the alarm for what some in the community are calling a “coyote invasion,” Armstrong and a band of about 15 volunteers have taken to the streets to inform locals of coyote sightings day and night on residential streets.

In what’s become an almost daily exercise, they’ve crisscrossed homes from the Kentwood and Loyola Village neighborhoods of Westchester to the bluffs and flats of Playa del Rey, passing out flyers detailing the latest sightings with information from Los Angeles County Wildlife Services.

They’ve set up an email address, coyotewatch911@gmail.com, for people to report coyote sightings and plotted those sightings—of them— on a Google map.

Last week they even took out an ad in The Argonaut stating that “extremely aggressive” coyotes have killed more than 20 dogs or cats over the past several months by their count.

Armstrong says she’s learned two things from the campaign — both of which left her distressed and motivated her to keep going.

“A lot of people weren’t aware of the coyote sightings in their neighborhoods, and some people think that we’re exaggerating the threat of the more aggressive coyotes,” said Armstrong, a commercial script supervisor who also works part-time for a Westchester real estate broker.

“I drive through neighborhoods and I see dogs off their leashes. We try to talk to people, but sometimes they don’t want to hear it,” she said.

During one of her initial efforts passing out flyers in Westchester, Armstrong was confronted by a man who asked her not to pass out flyers because his organization was planning community outreach. She suggested they work together, but he declined.

The reason: “He said my flyer was ‘too aggressive,’” Armstrong said.

Prior to publication of this story, another Westchester resident active in the community called The Argonaut to complain about Armstrong, saying her efforts have spread some misinformation and “inflamed a lot of people in the neighborhood.”

Los Angeles County Animal Services Officer Hoang Dinh, who addressed the issue during a community meeting in July, said multiple sightings of the same coyotes and the spread of anecdotal information can often lead to artificially inflated perceptions of their true number.

He recommended keeping small pets on leashes when walking them, walking pets in groups, keeping pet food out of reach of wildlife and above all never feeding coyotes, which is illegal. Coyotes, he said, are naturally afraid of humans and prefer to stay hidden most of the time.

But there have been cases were coyotes have not been shy about going after small pets — sometimes even when the owners are present.

As The Argonaut reported this summer, Playa del Rey resident Leanora Smith was bitten on the wrist by a coyote that went after her two small dogs while she was leaving her apartment near Paseo Del Rey Natural Science Magnet Elementary School.

“I appreciate and am gratified by the work that all volunteers are doing to educate the public about coyotes,” Smith said.

Although Dinh and other animal control experts discourage trapping coyotes — state law requires that coyotes trapped and removed from where they are found must be euthanized — Armstrong said state Fish and Wildlife officials should consider it because of what she and others say are abnormally aggressive tendencies among the coyotes in Westchester and Playa del Rey.

“I think it’s alarming to see so many pets that have been killed. We feel like we’re prisoners in our own homes. I’d like them to trap them and get the out of here,” Armstrong asserted.

Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa President Cyndi Hench is planning a town hall meeting later this month because she has heard many of her constituents’ fears about coyotes.

“There’s clearly a threat and a concern. There are more missing cats and I believe there are more coyotes in our community,” she said.

Hench said social media sites such as nextdoor.com, where several locals have posted coyote sightings, can often have a mixed impact.

“If we didn’t have social media, I wouldn’t know about the coyotes. I’ve never seen one,” said Hench, who lives in Kentwood. “But social media can also exaggerate our perception. It has the power to exaggerate and inflame.”

Armstrong said she hopes her efforts have been helpful, but the coyotes don’t seem to be going away.

“My goal is to prevent more pets from being killed and more people from having their hearts broken,” she said.




    Need a new solution

    I feel for people who have lost pets to coyotes. My mother lost her cat in Burbank to a coyote. But it’s not right that because WE force animals out of their natural territories (airport construction, new housing developments, etc.) and they’re forced to find new food/water sources in order to survive, they deserve to be killed. We need to STOP encroaching on THEIR territory and/or trap and relocate them.
    How is it right to preserve the wetlands for birds, etc. because they don’t disturb humans, but we can kill anything that we find offensive?


    You need to point the finger at The Playa Vista construction, draining the creek along the lower road of the trail has killed off almost all of the wildlife that existed there. Westchester never had this many incidents of coyote attacks. Keep in mind no water no life. Yes Playa Vista is totally to blame I suggest a class action lawsuit on Playa Vista developers, all Westchester residents should start getting involved with this banning Playa Vista from entering and totally destroying the last place that was close to nature. Action works. Don’t just accept their destruction it’s time to stop them.


    No one bats an eye when they let their cats out and kill wildlife (birds as one example) but a coyote gets a hold of a few cats and people are “up in arms”.

    Solution: Keep all pets on a leash and cats indoors where they belong. It’s usually entirely the pets owners for their own pets death for not being responsible, not the coyotes


    Don’t kid yourself, Alex. These coyotes will do sweeps through neighborhoods and wipe out hundreds of cats in a matter of months. Then they will focus their hunting efforts on the dogs. Small, medium, or large, the size does not matter. Those dogs at greatest risk are puppies and older dogs who may be sick and are unable to adequately protect themselves. We have seen it happen over and over. They sweep through one neighborhood until it is hunted out and move on to the next neighborhood to hunt that neighborhood out, and so on and do on until they have allowed enough time for neighborhood food sources to replenish themselves. Then the coyotes go back to the first neighborhood and start the cycle all over again.

    Lynzee Browning

    This article was well written and fairly balanced as it covered most sides of this conversation. One part was left out. Humans are the cause of this conflict. As mentioned above development has removed habitat for wild animals. Humans are responsible for attracting coyotes to the neighborhood by feeding them, by feeding feral cats, and by allowing food and garbage to be available to wild animals. Humans have allowed their pets to roam free or be outside during the hours coyotes hunt. When humans take responsibility for their actions instead of blaming coyotes we will have the action we need to live side by side. This can be done. There are places where humans live side by side with bears.

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