Wild Things of Hollywoodland

November 12, 2013 § 4 Comments

Hollywoodland Bobcat/Photo Courtesy Christine O'Brien, edited by Hope Anderson

Hollywoodland Bobcat/Photo Courtesy Christine O’Brien, edited by Hope Anderson

When I describe the wildlife in Los Angeles to people who haven’t lived here, I get comments like, “Oh, we have mountain lions in New York,” only to learn the mountain lion sightings took place forty miles north of Manhattan. There’s no comparison between that and, say, a coyote running alongside your car on Sunset Boulevard, which is what happened to me about nine years ago in Echo Park.

Since I moved to upper Beachwood Canyon in 2005, the deer have grown rarer while every other animal seems to have grown more common. Yesterday alone brought a fat squirrel in search of acorns to my door and a large red tail hawk to my deck–it was trying to get my lovebird, who was outside in a cage. On my way home last night at 7:30, I passed a coyote standing nonchalantly on the sidewalk a block north of the commercial district.

But the best recent animal sighting took place on the 3000 block of North Beachwood Drive, when the bobcat pictured above stopped to enjoy someone’s garden.

Related articles:

https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/wild-kingdom-an-unexpected-symbiosis-in-beachwood-canyon
https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/humans-and-wildlife-in-beachwood-canyon-an-update/

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Beachwood’s Animal Kingdom

June 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

During the past week, I’ve discovered both coyote and racoon footprints on the sheet that covers my outdoor chaise longue, proof that both have been inside my fenced yard. Though I frequently see coyotes outside my house, I had never seen a racoon until Monday evening, when this one passed by my back door.

A Visiting Racoon 6/3/13/All Photos Hope Anderson Productions

It got in by scaling down the branches that cover the steep hillside behind my back fence. Here it is in retreat:
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I ended the week with a much tamer animal encounter, though it was just as unexpected. This afternoon three horses were hitched up outside the Beachwood Cafe, calmly waiting for their owners to finish their lunch. They had come through Griffith Park and were in Beachwood for the first time, but they seemed very much at home here.
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Humans and Wildlife in Beachwood Canyon: An Update

January 30, 2013 § 6 Comments

A Coyote at Dusk in Hollywoodland/Hope Anderson Productions

A Coyote at Dusk in Hollywoodland/Hope Anderson Productions

One of the problems of living in a virtual nature preserve is the us-against-them mentality of some of the inhabitants–and I’m not talking about coyotes. Rather, it’s the human residents of Beachwood who regard themselves as combatants, either against wildlife or each other.

In the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been accused of being anti-wildlife–by a neighbor whose illegal feeding of birds (to say nothing of raccoons and coyotes) brought a dawn patrol of crows to my roof each morning–and now anti-dog. Someone who calls herself Doggie mama takes 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-beachwood-canyon/ She is further enraged by my quoting someone who called small pets lost to coyotes “nature’s nachos.”

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.

Despite the implications, my “convenient rat-hunting solution” was not instigated by me, nor did I start or condone the hunting of dogs by coyotes. And even if the coyotes of Beachwood Canyon somehow have learned to read, I can’t imagine their regarding this blog as an inducement to go after little dogs. Beyond these problems of logic are two larger questions: why do people who object to the presence of predatory wildlife–not only coyotes but hawks, owls and other raptors–choose to live in their habitat? And why do they walk their small dogs at night, usually on expandable leashes that allow the dogs to move ahead of them, seemingly untethered?

There’s no reason not to have a dog in Beachwood: I moved here with a beloved 95-pounder that throughout her life ruled over the neighborhood coyotes, all of which were tiny by comparison, and terrified of her. Even so, I rarely walked my dog after dusk in order to minimize the chance of meeting a coyote. In contrast, Doggie mama asserts her right to walk her ten-pound dogs at night. In a canyon where coyotes live, this is nothing short of a provocation, and provocations have their consequences.

Speaking of coyotes, I keep seeing the one photographed above. It resembles a mangy little sheep and looks nothing like any other coyote I’ve ever seen. Theories?

Wild Kingdom: An Unexpected Symbiosis in Beachwood Canyon

August 30, 2012 § 7 Comments

A Forebearer of the Coyote Discussed in This Post, May 2007/Hope Anderson Productions

Since I moved to Beachwood Canyon nearly seven years ago, coyotes have been a constant in my life. A neighboring property has a den that produces several pups a year; they make regular appearances on the public stairs, sidewalks and street, harming no one but occasionally stopping traffic. Although most of my property is fenced, I own two small parcels outside the fence. The coyotes use them for hunting and egress; occasionally, I’ll see one curled up, fast asleep, on the chaise longue that was there when I moved in.

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.

Beachwood Wildlife, Part II: People vs. Scavengers

October 3, 2010 § 1 Comment

 

Nature's Exterminator/Hope Anderson Productions

When I posted “On (Not) Keeping Wildlife Wild in Beachwood Canyon,” (September 7th), I didn’t envison it as the first in a series. After all, how much can one say about the folly of making wild animals dependent on handouts? I also thought my examples–burgeoning crow and squirrel populations and meandering coyotes–would address the subject once and for all.

Ha. Lately  Beachwood’s crows have attained heroic proportions: when they fly overhead, you can hear their wings beating–not only audibly but loudly. From the ground, it’s like being an insect in a Miyazaki film.

Ten days ago, I had a surprise morning encounter with “Wolfie,” the mange-ridden coyote discussed in the first post. I was walking my dog on Woodhaven when I saw Wolfie standing in the middle of the street, scratching himself. Although she desperately wanted to be let off the leash to chase him, as in the pre-mange days, we kept our distance while the coyote–now completely hairless except for his upper back–scratched his bald hindquarters. After 5 minutes of this, during which I found myself idiotically shouting, “Wolfie!–go away!” we turned around and took another route.   

Then there’s the huge rat I discovered a week ago Saturday. I had just pulled into my garage when I saw six inches of tail snaking down the back wall, behind some open shelving. A moment later I saw the rest of the rat,  impressively scaling the wall behind my paint cans. From nose to tail, it appeared to be over a foot long, easily the largest rat I’ve seen at close range. 

I sat in my car, horrified. It wasn’t just its size that appalled me but the fact that, in an area where rats are a seasonal problem, my detached garage had always been a rodent-free zone. I’d often wondered why–since at various times rats have invaded my garden, deck and crawl space. Now I was discovering the truth: there’s no such thing as a rodent-free zone in the Hollywood Hills–or, judging from the number of bait boxes I’ve noticed in public places lately, anywhere else in Los Angeles.

The rat’s size made confrontation impossible. I hastily exited the car, shut the garage door and didn’t come back until the next day, when I found the place quiet. In a fit of optimism, I assumed the rat had let himself out the way he got in, through a tiny gap in the side of the door, and called my exterminator.

When the exterminator showed up on Wednesday, the rat revealed himself briefly before disappearing again. There are now six baited traps in the garage, none of which have snapped. Obviously, I have the Rat King  on the premises. The mystery is why I can’t seem to find an exterminator willing to take him on. 

Where’s a coyote when you need one?

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