Belvedere considering use of federal snipers to kill all coyotes in city

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Sunday, March 5, 2023
North Bay city looking into using federal snipers to fix coyote issue
Belvedere, Calif. is considering the use of federal snipers to kill all coyotes on the island after population explodes.

BELVEDERE, Calif. (KGO) -- The City of Belvedere in Marin County is considering using snipers from the federal government to kill all the coyotes on the island. Some residents say the coyote population is exploding and affecting their way of life.

There's an old rancher's adage -- kill a coyote and two show up to its funeral. The experts say there's truth to that; more will come to fill the void. Still, a vocal group of Belvedere residents wants the killing to start as soon as possible.

Belvedere has some of the best views of San Francisco Bay, some of the most expensive homes, and - a coyote problem. The residents say the predator population is exploding and as a result, deer, raccoons and squirrels have all but disappeared. And, so are the pets.

"This was our goodnight thing, when he wants to go out, opened the door, never to be seen again," Lynn Lewis said.

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Lewis says her mutt from the pound, Baby, kept her company through the pandemic. But, just two weeks ago, a coyote snatched him from her fenced yard.

"I haven't gotten over it at all. It's very hard," she said.

A neighbor saw the coyote running down the street with Baby wearing his red sweater in its mouth.

"Baby went out the back door. Baby was gone. And that coyote had to be within 10 feet of me."

Dan Noyes: "And you didn't see it?"

Lynn Lewis: "Never saw it. Never heard Baby scream. Nothing."

Marielle Samoun said, "I was right here in the living room. And I opened the door and let him go out and didn't hear anything at all."

Samoun's dog, Noodles, disappeared and a few days later, her 14-year-old daughter on a bike ride found his paw and then his head.

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"Oh, she's devastated. And she's also scared when she's on her bike or she's outside that she's going to confront a coyote."

Connie Stryker said, "We literally aren't sure if we can stay here."

Noyes: "Really?"

Connie Stryker: "Really."

Walt and Connie Stryker tell me their lives changed one night in Jan. when their dog woke them up, barking.

"And then I turned on the light which is right there for the deck light. And there's Mr. Coyote."

They have no windows on the first floor, and now, they have to keep the sliding doors shut tight, for fear of a coyote attack.

"Winston would go out. Mr. Coyote could be right there," Connie Stryker said.

Belvedere police report "a dramatic increase in the number of coyote sightings and pet attacks," 71 since October. The City Council held an emergency meeting two weeks ago, urging residents not to leave pet food outside, to clean up any fallen fruit from trees that coyotes might eat. Yes, they're omnivores.

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Some San Jose residents say several cats and dogs have recently been attacked and fear the coyotes are getting too comfortable.

"And I have seen them jumping into persimmon trees grabbing the ripe persimmons," said Dr. Carolyn Whitesell of the University of California.

The experts told residents to coyote-proof their yards, install cat enclosures like this and coyote roll bars atop fences.

"These will roll the animal back off the fence so they can't get over," Keli Hendricks of Project Coyote said.

And when they urged residents to "haze" the coyotes -- stand tall, wave your arms, shout to scare them away -- the crowd grew impatient.

"I'm gonna just go over it quickly again," Hendricks said.

The crowd replies, "No! No! No!"

Councilmember: "We can probably, okay, can we have a little bit of order and decorum here, please?"

Many of the residents were not open to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's basic message - coyotes are here to stay. Find a way to peacefully co-exist.

"It is illegal to trap an animal and move it elsewhere," said CDFW biologist Garrett Allen.

Public comment was filled with people calling for snipers to kill every coyote on Belvedere. They cite December's attack on a child in Woodland Hills; the father chased the coyote away, and Carl the Coyote killed by a federal sniper in summer of 2021 after he stalked a toddler in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

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"We need to get rid of the current aggressive coyotes, right? They need to be taken out full stop," said Belvedere resident Brian Davis.

"I'm the biggest animal fanatic, but they gotta be killed, they gotta be eradicated," said Laura Gillespie, another resident.

"These coyotes if we eliminate them now, they're not coming back," said resident David Lycus

Even TV personality Mike Rowe, also a Belvedere resident, called in to claim he had a close encounter.

"I kicked a coyote in the head three nights ago - it shot out of the bush. It ran for our dog. I kicked the thing. And it stood there and looked at me," Rowe said.

The arguments appeared to have an impact on the City Council.

"We may have to use lethal control at this point, it may be our only option," said City Councilmember Jane Cooper

The I-Team has confirmed that after the meeting, Belvedere officials contacted the USDA's Wildlife Service whose snipers, poison, and traps kill more than 60,000 coyotes a year, mostly to protect livestock.

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"My dog would do anything for our family," the girl's mother said.

"Certainly, when people learned that there's consideration of bringing in an agency like USDA Wildlife Services into Marin, those who know about the history of that agency are rather shocked," said Camilla Fox of Project Coyote.

Fox is also working with Belvedere on peaceful solutions. She tells me the island has a silent majority who do not favor killing coyotes.

"I don't want to kill any animal."

Even residents like Lynn Lewis are against it, who lost her pet to the predator.

"If anybody said here is a pot, put money in. There are people here that have some money. I'd put in some money, a lot of people are putting some money and let's gather up these coyotes and take them way out, they'll hunt in the wild. They don't need to hunt pets," Lewis said.

It is also against the law for anyone to fire a gun inside the Belvedere city limits; some neighbors suggested they were considering that.

This is a complex issue -- if you'd like to weigh in, follow the links below for contact information of the public officials involved.

To contact the Belvedere City Council, visit here.

To contact Project Coyote, visit here.

To contact USDA Wildlife Services, visit here.

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