from Officer Gregory Randall, City of Los Angeles Animal Services
Hello, Officer Randall here. I will go over what the Departments policies on wildlife so you can also share with others. I am including links to wildlife deterrents, scare tactics and suggestions on property alteration to reduce negative encounters with wildlife. This is an extensive email as there is much to cover.
The Department of Animal Services does respond to wildlife complaints in a variety of ways depending on the severity of the incident at hand. Officers do respond to wildlife emergency calls that are in progress if the incident is happening at the time the call comes in. Calls for wildlife issues that are ongoing where a person is having long term wildlife forays causing property damage or other issues will cause employees to take a wildlife report which is then given to me so that I can address the individual concerns of the caller.
Many people believe that unless trapping and/or killing, relocating wildlife is used, that the inference of saying that "There is nothing we can do." It is often in the mind person experiencing the problem caller at this point may feel or say "I am a prisoner in my own home." I truly believe there is always something that can be done. Like other things we do such as implement ways to deter crime issues, we sometimes put bars on windows, put up motion lights, etc. and to deal with fire issues we clear brush, put up smoke detectors, etc. The trapping of wildlife is only a momentary relief and places a band-aid on the problem. If a trap is set, a coyote or several are caught, the belief of many is that the problem is solved and no other coyotes will come. That is like believing homes will remain empty forever after people move and that when a burglar is arrested in a neighborhood you can now leave all doors and windows unlocked because no more crime will take place.
When it comes to coyotes, even though the news reports often have negative stories regarding conflict between coyotes and people, the average is about 1 to 5 encounters per year per state where a person becomes injured or bitten as a result of contact with a coyote, and often as a result of the feeding of the coyote. There are roughly 4 million dog bites nation wide every year so it is more likely to be injured by our own or a stray dog then be attacked by a wild animal.
Today, it is all about new education on what to do now which means we humans must be a part of the solution in a different way. Trapping in most cases is a mechanical reaction to the issue when it is really more important to make property alteration, use exclusionary methods and scare tactics. As many already know when wild animals die, they are replaced by others filling that empty niche. It is important of making adjustments around our homes to make them less inviting to wildlife. Things like pet food outside, fallen fruit from trees, composting human food items, etc will attract animals. Small dogs and children in areas where coyotes are known to frequent should not be left unattended. Wildlife should be frightened off all the time by Banging pans, blowing an air-horn or whistle, use a bullhorn, waive an open umbrella, raise your arms above your head and stomp your feet while shouting at the animal. (A more subtle approach for skunks as frightening them leads to a stinky situation) Urban wild animals are opportunistic and they would much rather eat from the pet food dish left outside then chase down prey expending a lot of energy. Let's face it our back yard to wildlife is what our kitchen cabinet and refrigerator is to us.
Urban sprawl is another issue as more and more land is being taken for development, wild animals are closer to our homes then ever. Many believe we can take the wildlife "Back to the forest." Honestly, they were never there in most cases to begin with. The wild animals here mostly come from successive generations born close by and the forest is alien to them. It is overgrown yards that appeal to them here. We humans also go hiking in the area where you would expect to see these animals and they see us even if we do not always see them and they have learned...Humans have food, leave food trash behind, we do not appear to be a threat as we usually do nothing to frighten them off so they get closer. There are also people in every area that intentionally feed them too. Environmental factors such as fires and lack of rainfall can cause populations of animals to move around and what may seem like an increase in population may be animals driven from one place to another.
Here is the department policy regarding wildlife trapping:
The City of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services is not providing traps or issuing trapping permits for the public to use their own, rented or borrowed traps to remove nuisance wildlife. The trapping or relocation of wildlife by the public is prohibited. The Department of Animal Services suggests trying property alteration, deterrents & exclusionary methods. The option exists for L.A. City residents to contract with a Nuisance or Pest Control company that has permits to trap and remove some types of mammals. Wildlife trapped by these agencies would be released on site or immediately euthanized. California State law prohibits the relocation of predatory mammals. (CCR Title 14 sec. 465.5)
So residents can in fact contract with trappers who have permits, but you many people call back later on again and say they spent a lot of money trapping and the problem returned. Once people switch to exclusion, scare tactics and property alteration instead, the wildlife issues in most cases are reduced and what neighbors are doing can be a factor as well. This department prior to 1994 did in fact trap wildlife and it never really solved anyone's problem and the same people called year after year. Trapping laws changed, the direction of the department changed and the goal has become "No Kill" on animals. Truly we have found that people who made the adjustments have done better with their wildlife issues. It is though a community effort and we need everyone to be on board. Should your community wish to go with a trapping agency there are many and not all have the experience that is successful so calling and comparing companies is best.
It is encouraged to put together a wildlife scare kit which should be kept by the door for larger predatory animals. An 18 or 20 gallon container would suffice to hold an air horn, police whistle, baseballs or golf balls to throw, an umbrella to open and waive around, disposable camera w/flash (the flash scares them in many cases) When it comes to your pets make sure you check around your yard for anything that may be harmful and have something handy from the items I mentioned when out walking. Just as you would be cautious on a walk for human predators, look back often while on a walk, and Carry that umbrella and a whistle. In almost all of these cases when incidents happen, there will be no official from our agency or the police nearby so each person should be prepared for any given situation
Blocking Access / Deterring: It is a good idea to block access to a roof by tree banding nearby trees and cutting away branches touching the roof, in some cases it is lattice work fences or vines allowing the animal’s access to the roof. Baffling/Tree banding can be done by placing a piece of sheet metal or galvanized aluminum around the tree trunk that attaches to itself at minimum of about 3 feet height off the ground and the piece itself should be about 2 feet wide, This will allow the animal to drop down off the tree an block access back up. In order for this to work tree branches from other trees must not touch to the tree the wild animals live and this will not work if the tree is close to a wall higher then the baffling/banding. You may also wish to implement the use of a motion activated sprinkler to further discourage the wildlife. The animals are going to stay near to easy shelter access (under the house or in the attic) as well as food and open water sources so if adjustments are made they tend to move on. Some animals dig for grubs so you may wish to implement the use of Beneficial Nematodes to discourage digging in the garden and if you are putting down new sod, make sure to use lawn stakes and biodegradable protective lawn cloth to hold in place until it knits itself to the soil.. If they animals are digging up potted plants, the placement of motion strobes can help or hang moth ball cakes in proximity to the plants as a deterrent. (Note: avoid moth ball products near contact with pets, children, soil and air ducts leading into your home) The Prowler Owl device can be helpful as Great Horned Owls are predators of raccoons, opossums, & skunks and this may scare them off. If the animal is living under your home it is there because of the dark and quiet den like look of the crawlspace area and the screens are too weak to prevent access. If the animal is coming through a pet door, it is best to lock down pet doors from dusk to dawn and hang a moth ball cake on a cup hook just in front of the pet door to discourage the intruder. There are devices known as the Garden Ghost or Ssscat, which are motion-activated air canisters that spray air in the face of the animal when they approach. In all these cases your pets would have to be inside to avoid being affected by the deterrents. Most animals get the hint and move on after a little aversion therapy.
Wildlife Eviction: To evict the animals from underneath your home or the attic space, there are several methods. The point will be to reverse the dark and quiet to light and noise. The next method will have to be done just prior to night fall. You will need a non-heat producing fluorescent type light and a transistor radio set to a talk station. These items will have to be placed inside the crawl space as far in as you can place them and away from the opening the animal has been using to go under your home. Often using an extending painter’s pole with a wire hanger taped to the end will allow you to push these items further under your home. You may wish to tie a long 20 foot piece of string to the items for easy retrieval later and tie the free end of the string outside the opening. Do not allow the electronics to be near any water leaks. Once the items are placed you will then take a cup of flour and mix in about a tablespoon of cayenne pepper, then sift it out in front of the opening, this will allow you to see if the animals have left if you tracks leading away through the flour, you can safely close the crawl space again. Now for the screen, the screen must have at least a 16 gauge wire mesh and a strong double frame; the mesh must be sandwiched between the 2 frames then screwed in place instead of using staples and nails. Keep the new screen near the opening and ready to put in place. Once the animals are evicted, hang a moth ball cake on the outside of the screen for a couple of weeks to deter the animals from going back to the location, Should the animal be trying really hard to get back in, there could be babies stuck under the home, in which case you will need to open it up and start over to allow the parent animal to remove the young. The time you are most likely to find a mother animal and babies under the crawl space or in the attic is March through September (spring though summer) Now another method of animal eviction involves a chemical deterrent which is not preferred but can work, this method involves using an empty plastic bottle or several, puncture about 8 pencil sized holes in it, place about 5 moth balls in each of the containers, screw the lid back on, tie about 12 feet or longer length of string to the neck of the bottle, use a painters pole with a wire hanger taped to the end to push the bottles into the crawl space under the house, tie the free end of the string outside for easy retrieval once the animals have gone. Once again, take a cup of flour and mix in about a tablespoon of cayenne pepper, then sift it out in front of the opening, this will allow you to see if the animals have left if you tracks leading away through the flour, you can safely close the crawl space again. Please wear rubber gloves and use a face mask or bandana over your nose when handling moth balls and do not allow the moth balls to touch the soil. Once the animals are evicted you will need to seal access points (Note: the eviction process should be done just a few minutes prior to nightfall as most urban mammals will not want to come out into the daylight.)
Tips: (applies to many wildlife issues)
- Take pet food in at night. Never leave food outside for strays or attempt to feed wildlife.
- Pick up fallen fruit, remove ripened fruit from trees.
- Clear dense vegetation; create a 1 foot clearance of space beneath hedges and bushes to reduce rodent hiding places.
- Make sure crawl space screens are secured and well maintained. (use 16 gauge welded wire mesh sandwiched between 2 frames and use screws not staples)
- Trim tree branches away from the roof (fire department requires a 5 foot vertical clearance from the eaves.)
- Do not put out trash until morning of pick-up and secure trash can lids if need be.
- Cap chimneys
- Keep barbecue grills clean and properly stored.
- Avoid composting human food items in an open compost pile.
- Avoid having brush and wood piles which attract rodents that in turn attracts the larger wildlife.
- Neighbors that feed squirrels and birds may have wayward seed that also attract larger wild animals so you may wish to encourage them to use feeders that are less likely to drop seed, etc.
- It is a good idea to block access to a roof by tree banding nearby trees and cutting away branches touching the roof, Baffling/Tree banding can be done by placing a piece of sheet metal or galvanized aluminum around the tree trunk that attaches to itself at starting at about 4 feet height off the ground and the piece itself should be about 2 feet wide, This will allow the animal to drop down off the tree an block access back up. In order for this to work tree branches from other trees must not touch to other trees for this to work if the tree is close to a wall higher then the baffling/banding.
Los Angeles Animal Services Wildlife Info:
Fish & Game Keep Me Wild:
Humane Eviction of Raccoons:
Humane Eviction of Skunks:
Project Wildlife (Skunks):
Wildlife Deterrents, Exclusion Ideas
(Many products can be found with lower prices by searching on Google Shopping, Ebay or Amazon.com)
The Electronic Guard:
Squirrel Evictor: (works on raccoons, opossums & rodents too)
Ventura County Coyote Resistant Fence Design:
Horns & Whistles:
(Natural way to remove grubs that small mammals dig for)
Odor Neutralizer Products:
Mixture to reduce skunk odor:
A hydrogen peroxide/baking soda recipe: 1-quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide, 1/4 cup of Baking Soda, 1 teaspoon of Liquid Soap, Wash while it is bubbling…rinse off with tap water.
WILDLIFE PROGRAM INFORMATION
You are receiving this information because you have either voiced your concern about wildlife in and around your neighborhood or you live in an area where there are some wildlife issues. Here you will find information that may help you better understand wildlife behavior and ways to help prevent further wildlife conflicts. The Los Angeles Department of Animal Services has a Wildlife Division to aid residents in rectifying problems and some of the uneasiness that many people are now facing with wildlife. This program allows for a department representative to provide on-site evaluations, education on methods of exclusion, deterrents and discouragement of wildlife forays into our city neighborhoods. It is not the intention of the Department of Animal Services to remove wildlife from residential areas. Rather, the Department is hoping to rectify most problems through neighborhood education and individual homeowner attention. This is a multi-tiered program designed to help neighborhoods better deal with wildlife issues, and further lessen contact with these animals by investigating changes in both human and wildlife behavior.
Prior to 1994, the Department of Animal Services did routinely trap and euthanize coyotes. The focus at that time was simply to remove problem animals. Due to changes in thinking within and outside the department, studies in coyote behavior and new laws pertaining to trapping, the practice was stopped. The removal of coyotes temporarily resolved problems but failed to address the real issues.
Change in Thinking
In spite of the destruction of large numbers of wild animals throughout the United States the problem remains today and in many instances worsened dramatically. After speaking with many experts we discovered some of the reasons why. The source of the problem is not the presence of wildlife, it is the environment that humans provide for them just by the simple manner in how we are the provider of food, water and cover for them. Many people are encouraging wild animals to live near their homes inadvertently or by design. Unfortunately, urban sprawl is something that remains a constant. If we are going to push further and further into the habitat of wild animals we need to be responsible for our behavior. Change in wildlife behavior through negative interactions with humans by using deterrents is one way to alter the types of encounters we have with them. In many cases this will teach further generations to avoid habitats where deterrent measures have been implemented. The opposite is also true as well; if we do nothing and allow things to remain unchecked then the wildlife behavior remains the same.
The following Q&A section was designed to help with many common myths and facts regarding natural history of predatory urban wildlife.
Questions & Answers
Q: What is the function of predatory wildlife, what are they good for?
A: Many Environmentalists firmly believe that predatory wildlife exists to preserve the balance of nature. Bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, opossums, raccoons & skunks are some of the most successful species on the planet. These animals are classified as Carnivores and Omnivores; they will eat just about anything and to some degree they do help keep rodent and insect populations in check. In some areas around the United States where there has been attempts to eradicate wild predators, there has been increases in rodent vermin and related disease. The circle of life can seem cruel by human standards but many prey and rodent species would overrun urban areas damaging crops and vegetation if the populations of predator species did not keep them in check. It is also predatory wildlife, which serves as nature’s vacuum since they eat dead rodents around our homes as well.
Q: Why can’t predatory wildlife be trapped and relocated to another area or the forest?
A: The California Department of Fish and Game, the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Services Department prohibit the relocation of most predatory wildlife. Some wild animals are considered to be vermin by Agriculture Departments throughout the United States. Sadly, euthanasia has been something many local animal authority agencies have had to use for lack of a better system. There are several reasons why relocation has not been a viable alternative; a problem predator that is relocated into another community will continue with the same behavior. Another problem is if you take that urban wild animal and move it to the “forest” or what may be deemed a truly wild area far from a community, it would most likely be attacked and injured if not killed by other predators, which may have already established territory. A wild animal that lives within the boundaries of a city and lived its life mainly as a scavenger may not have honed it’s hunting skills well enough and therefore die as it was used to more opportunistic foraging of outdoor pet food, water, rodents, back yard fruit and vegetables, trash, etc. Vector disease is another factor. Wild predators in urban settings may have been exposed to diseases associated with domestic pets, which could be transmitted to other wildlife that normally never would have been exposed. Trapping and removing animals has done nothing to correct the human equation. The cycle will repeat itself as long as people fail to change own their habits. Trapping is indiscriminate process and may catch any animal and we may even be removing an animal that has never participated in any of the negative behaviors you are experiencing. The possibility also exists that you may catch a parent animal foraging for food that has immature young that will now die a cruel and lingering death by exposure and starvation. The belief that removing the animal from its territory will solve the problem is like believing that no one will move into your home if you moved out. The Department has discontinued the trapping of wildlife within the City of Los Angeles. It is your right as a citizen to contact a pest control company that has permits to remove wild mammals. The wildlife trapped by pest control companies would be euthanized as State law prohibits the relocation of predatory mammals. The Department of Animal Services is not giving permits for the public to use their own, rented or borrowed traps. The Wildlife Division recommends the use of deterrents, exclusionary methods and adjustments around the exterior of your home to make it less inviting to wildlife. If you are having a problem with wildlife making forays into your property, you may contact the Departments Wildlife Division for further advice.
Q: Why can’t we create watering holes for wild predators so they will return or stay in their normal environment?
A: The majority of the wildlife you see in your neighborhood were born nearby. No amount of water would cause an urban predator to stay in one place. The water would certainly benefit the wildlife but they would still venture to find food. Some studies have shown the use of water “Guzzlers” that have been instituted in arid regions have been helpful in supporting wildlife, but in the urban setting it is not much help. An ambitious water source program provided better management of water guzzlers in Southern California for quail and larger animals between the 1940’s and 1960’s. The California Department of Fish and Game constructed 2,000 artificial water sources in the state. Unfortunately, over time, the locations of these guzzlers had been lost due to decay, budget cuts and personnel changes. Some other studies show that the use of drinkers and guzzlers may create a situation where predatory wildlife would learn to lay in wait for prey species visiting the man made water source, which again upsets nature’s delicate balance.
Q: I am worried about my children; do predators such as bobcats, coyotes, foxes and mountain lions attack, injure or kill people?
A: Can it happen? Yes. What are the chances ? Wild animal attacks on people are extremely rare. There is an estimate from the Department of Fish and Game that 1 to 2 people per year that are injured due to a coyote. In Southern California from 1978 to 2003 it is estimated from reports that there have been 89 coyote attacks on people with 56 of these coyote attacks resulting in injury. Many of have been linked to feeding, defending a family pet , or attempting to touch a coyote. There is 1 human fatality known to be caused by a coyote in Glendale in 1981 which was linked to direct feeding of the animal. In California, from 1890 through 2006 there were 13 verified Mountain lion attacks on people and 6 of those attacks resulted in human deaths. Bobcat, Fox, Raccoon, Skunk and Opossum attacks are virtually unknown with bites usually being incidental as a result someone attempting to handle the animal. Many people worry about coyotes causing the death of a human yet there are over 300 people that have been killed by domestic dogs in the U.S. between the 1970’s and the late 1990’s. In the United States there are approximately 3 to 5 million people that are attacked by dogs every year, with 20 deaths on average per year so a child is more likely to get hurt by a domestic dog than by a coyote. This means that your family dog or your neighbor's dog is ten times more likely kill someone than a mountain lion and hundreds of times more likely than a coyote. Most attacks occur when wild animals lose their fear of humans often because people are feeding or encouraging them. Statistically the chances of wildlife attacks on humans causing fatality are low when compared to 43,000 people killed by auto accidents, 13,000 people killed by falls, and on the obscure side 13 people that are killed by vending machine's falling on them every year. Practice animal safety at all times. Show children how to react when in the presence of any animal. If you are not sure of what the appropriate response is to the appearance of a particular wild animal, you may contact the Departments Wildlife Division or the Department of Fish & Game for further advice.
Q: I am worried for the safety of my pets, how can I protect them?
A: Bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes and mountain lions are the animals that most people worry about for their pets. The main concern of the aforementioned animals would be the coyote. Wild animals are opportunistic and coyotes fit this mold very well. Coyote attacks tend to be on pets that are less than 20 pounds and more often on pets less than 10 pounds. Always walk your dog on a leash at all times and stay close to high pedestrian traffic areas. Try not to establish a regular routine and route to avoid setting up a pattern for the coyote to detect. Avoid bushy areas or paths near abandoned properties. If you notice a coyote when walking your dog, keep your dog as close to you as possible and move towards an active area. Never let that coyote go by without scaring it. Carry something with you to scare wildlife away such as an air horn, walking stick, umbrella and something to throw such as baseballs or golf balls. Never encourage or allow your pet to interact or “play” with coyotes. If you are seeing these animals around your home, make sure that you fence is in a good condition, do not leave pets unattended outdoors if possible. If your cat or dog must be outside, consider constructing an outdoor 6-sided enclosure that is made of heavy gauge wire or chain-link with an enclosed access way to the house. Remove food sources such as fallen fruit and food refuse, Remove pet food when your pet is not outside. Small mammals such as opossums, raccoons and skunks are not usually a threat for domestic pets and quite often it is the other way around as they are victims of dog attacks. For further information contact the Departments Wildlife Division for a brochure about specific wildlife.
Q: I know someone that puts out food for wildlife, is that all right?
A: No, as a matter of fact it is against the law.(L.A.M.C. 53.06.5) Deliberately feeding wild predators puts you, your pets and your neighbors at risk. Observing wild animals is one of the many benefits of living in or near wildlife habitat. The experience can turn unpleasant or even dangerous, however, when well-meaning people feed wildlife. When people feed predatory animals, they can become unnaturally bold and this usually results in conflict that often ends in serious harm, or even death to the animal or in some rare cases to a person. One example is people that throw food to wild animals from their automobiles, this trains the animals to stay close to the road where the wildlife is often killed or seriously wounded. There are coyotes and other wildlife that have been observed begging food in some areas as a result of feeding too. In cases where a person holds out the food to a wild animal then withholds it in order to draw them closer or tries to play keep away, the wild animal often becomes “Food Aggressive” and nips at the person to get them to release the food item. Coyotes for example may dance about and look playful prior to this happening giving the impression that it is friendly. It is a matter of time before feeding them does more harm than good. Wild animals that associate people as a provider of food invariably end up having to be destroyed for displaying aggressive behavior. Feeding of wildlife fines can be $500 to $1,000.00 with a possible 6 months in jail.
Q: We’ve always had wildlife around here, why are the coyotes and other wild animals acting differently now?
A: You are not alone in your concern about the presence of predatory wildlife in their neighborhoods. Predators such as coyotes have adapted to human presence and behavior. We as humans go for walks or hikes in parks, recreation areas and mountain ranges. We see coyotes and they see us, the reaction when most of us see predatory wildlife is to take no action at all or run away, so the coyotes have no reason to fear human presence and therefore become bolder in behavior. Homes are being built further into natural habitat and certain types of landscaping make it more inviting to these animals. If we do not change our ways, the behavior will continue. Progressive deterrent and exclusion measures should be used before problems start.
Department Function & Policy
The City of Los Angeles does not own or have any control of wild animals found within its boundaries, nor is the city responsible for the actions or damage caused by them. There are no laws, policies or mandates requiring the department to remove native wildlife. These animals are a common and important integral part of our ecosystem, biosphere and the circle of life. The Department of Animal Services was originally created to deal with problems arising from stray dogs and to enforce laws pertaining to them. Wildlife to a small degree has been included in the scope of the services that the department provides as need has arisen due to encroachment on wild habitat which has resulted in wild animals being involved in distress situations in which they required rescue. Awareness through education is key in resolving conflicts with wildlife.
* The Department of Animal Services does not support nor endorse any specific product or equipment recommendations, nor support or endorse companies that produce products that scare, deter or exclude wildlife. Any brochures, pamphlets, flyers or email links that are sent or supplied to you are meant to help with ideas you may find useful. Should you decide to purchase any products or services from any source and that product or service should fail to support the claims of the manufacturer or business, The Department of Animal Services cannot be held responsible for that product, claim or service. Please report any broken or dead links. Thank you.
Gregory Randall, Wildlife Specialist (serving the people of Los Angeles since 1989)
City of Los Angeles Animal Services
3201 Lacy Street Los Angeles, CA 90031
Phone: 888.452.7381 Ext: 1-4-1 Fax: 213.847.0555
Shift: Tuesday-Saturday (Sunday & Monday off) *Subject to Change (Work hours change frequently to deal with certain wildlife issues.)
Wildlife Program Coordinator: Captain Wendell Bowers 818.756.9323
* The Department of Animal Services does not support nor endorse any specific product or equipment recommendations, nor support or endorse companies that produce products that scare, deter or exclude wildlife. Any brochures, pamphlets, flyers or email links that are sent or supplied to you are meant to help with ideas you may find useful. Should you decide to purchase any products or services from any source and that product or service should fail to support the claims of the manufacturer or business, The Department of Animal Services cannot be held responsible for that product, claim or service. Please report any broken or dead links. Thank you