On (Not) Keeping Wildlife Wild in Beachwood Canyon
September 7, 2010 § 1 Comment
A couple of years ago, a friend from the dog park told me a story about a man she met at Tailwaggers, our neighborhood pet store. He enthusiastically petted her retriever, saying he loved dogs but had never had one of his own. Noticing he was buying several sacks of dog food, she asked, “Then who’s that for?” “Oh,” the man replied, “I feed coyotes.”
He’s not the only one. Other Canyon residents feed coyotes in less overt ways, by throwing them chicken bones and other scraps and leaving low-hanging avocados on their trees. One notorious coyote feeder even claims to have struck a bargain with them–in exchange for food, the coyotes apparently have agreed not to eat his cats. Water bowls are common, placed outside in the belief that providing them with liquids is a humane gesture. The fact that feeding wildlife is illegal is not a concern, as enforcement is nil.
God help Beachwooders who point out that coyotes and other scavengers are not only capable of finding food and water but are not helped by these measures. The feeder-waterers will accuse them of heartlessness and will go on doing it, while the objectors will try to ignore it. As a result, areas of the Canyon resemble an outdoor cafeteria for wildlife. The sight of a coyote trotting along the sidewalk of Beachwood Drive at 9am is not uncommon.
From April through July of this year, my roof was requisitioned by flocks of enormous crows who each dawn would screech and fight above my head before flying up en masse to eat breakfast on my neighbor’s deck. When I finally said something to her, I received a diatribe about my selfishly wanting to sleep and not liking nature.
But this isn’t natural. The crow-feeding has upset the balance of birds in the neighborhood: even well-fed crows will eat the eggs of doves, sparrows and other smaller species. The finches that used to cluster around my flowering plants have been absent this season, as have the doves. (There are plenty of hummingbirds, however, probably because they lay eggs that are too small to bother with.)
On walks in the neighborhood, I see bread left out for birds and squirrels, along with copious droppings. A neighbor reports that as a result the squirrels have become so numerous that they are undermining the foundation of her house.
The coyote pictured above, nicknamed Wolfie by the neighbor on whose property he was born, has been a fixture by my house for the past three years. He and my dog were frenemies, barking at each other through the window and occasionally encountering each other on walks. But over the past year, a severe case of mange has taken all of Wolfie’s fur. It will kill him–yet somehow he survives, completely hairless and terrifying-looking. Thus when I heard from someone whose dog had recently attacked Wolfie, I assumed the worst. However, the following week I happened to meet a woman who knew the coyote well. She reports Wolfie is alive and that his mange is being treated by a friend of hers. When I asked how, she said he feeds the coyote balls of raw meat spiked with medicine.