Wild Kingdom: An Unexpected Symbiosis in Beachwood Canyon
August 30, 2012 § 7 Comments
It didn’t take me long to realize the coyotes do Canyon residents an invaluable service by hunting tree rats (R. rattus, also known as roof rats or black rats) that make their habitat in trees, ivy and scrub. The rodents are unstoppable climbers, leapers, burrowers and swimmers, and are able to squeeze through any half-inch gap. In Beachwood, their numbers used to be kept down by foxes, but those disappeared long ago, leaving only coyotes to do the necessary culling. Without coyotes, we would certainly be overrun by pests–not only tree rats but squirrels (both ground and tree varieties) and moles.
Sadly, having a fence means unwittingly providing sanctuary for tree rats, which come in to escape the coyotes outside. Over the years, I’ve had to use bait boxes and traps to keep them from infesting the property–including, at various times, the crawl spaces of my house–but even so I’ve never been able to grow vegetables (other than arugula, which they apparently can’t stand).
In light of my travails, I’m grateful to coyotes for being nature’s exterminators. Almost nightly, I hear them hunting above my house, starting about 1am and continuing intermittently through the night. That’s what I thought was happening early Sunday morning, when I was awakened before dawn by yapping, snarling, and something that sounded like a kazoo. This strange cacophony of coyote noises sounded closer than usual, but I was too tired to investigate. It wasn’t until I finally got up and looked outside that I realized what had happened. A small, mangy coyote lay on the cushioned bench below my bedroom window, basking in the sun. He had done what I thought was impossible: scaled a six-foot chain link fence that runs along one side of my property and come inside to hunt. As surprised as I was, I immediately realized he done me the favor of clearing the garden of pests, just ahead of my calling the exterminator.
When I shouted, he took off, apparently leaving the way he came. This was a relief; I didn’t relish the idea going out there to let him out the gate like a dog. But aside from the time it took to scrub the bench and the deck (where he’d left a souvenir pile of scat), his visit cost me nothing. His hunting, on the other hand, has saved me $35 a month in exterminator fees. Now that the garden free of pests, I’ll be planting a few vegetables–and wondering when the coyote will return.
Nice post. We used to live on Creston Dr (not far from Wolf’s Lair), and we used to see, smell (skunks), and hear all types of critters. Never had coyotes snoozin’ in our yard, though. And it hadn’t occurred to me that they keep the rat population down. Unfortunately, they probably do the same with the kitty population, too?
Cats and small dogs are, as someone told me, nature’s nachos to coyotes. But in Beachwood they do more good than harm.
“Natures Nachos”, heh-heh… That’s pretty good; I’m gonna use that… 🙂
Nature’s nachos? You guys realize that your convenient rat hunting solution up the hill means dog hunting season down the hill as soon as the rat population decreases? They come down every winter, but this year is worse than ever… a pack is hunting at 8pm tonight, and we’ve seen them around 11pm for the past two months… not safe for walking two 10-lb puppies at 8p and 11p… But thanks for calling my beloved pups a snack for these creatures that seem to be saving you a few bucks in exterminator expenses.
By reporting on the wildlife of Beachwood Canyon, I neither created nor condoned the situation between coyotes and household pets–or, for that matter, tree rats. Unlike you, however, I understand that we humans and our pets are encroaching on the natural habitat of protected wildlife, not vice versa. There are many areas of Los Angeles that are free from predatory wildlife, and as far as I know no one is being forced to live in Beachwood Canyon. Those of us who choose to make our homes here should understand where we stand.
[…] issue with a post I wrote about a coyote jumping my fence and clearing the property of tree rats. https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/wild-kingdom-an-unexpected-symbiosis-in-beachw… She is further enraged by my quoting someone who called small pets lost to coyotes “natures […]
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