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The Plight of Urban Wildlife

By Lila Brooks Animals are companions in the biosphere and part of the “web of life.” They are our fellow planetarians, destined to SHARE this planet with us humans and are not to be used or exploited for any reason. The dusk is descending on the Hollywood hills in California and the nocturnal creatures are beginning...

By Lila Brooks

Animals are companions in the biosphere and part of the “web of life.” They are our fellow planetarians, destined to SHARE this planet with us humans and are not to be used or exploited for any reason.

The dusk is descending on the Hollywood hills in California and the nocturnal creatures are beginning to stir. From a distance we can hear the eerie yips of a lone coyote. At daybreak the bulldozers are beginning to roll, destroying the habitat of wild animals, causing the frightened creatures to run for their lives. A desperate mother is trying to carry her babies to safety but she is unable to carry all of them and those left behind are being crushed by the steel monsters. The hills are being taken over by humans, and the indigenous wild creatures who have lived in those hills since the Pleistocene Epoch are being “evicted” with no place to go. The exploding human population is pushing the wild animals off this planet. In the State of California alone three species went extinct in the last century: the wolf, the jaguar, and the grizzly bear. “The progress mania” is causing humans to systematically destroy their natural environment.

It is ironic that some urbanites who have chosen to live in close proximity to nature, in the hills, resent the presence of wild creatures and want to get rid of them, while others, some well-meaning but misguided individuals feeling guilty for having “confiscated” the coyotes’ habitat, are providing food for them. This practice has lured an excess number of coyotes into residential areas, placing their own and their neighbors’ pets in jeopardy. Wild animals will return daily to backyards where “fast food” stations have been set up for them, conditioning them to be unafraid of humans and will no longer fend for themselves.

Those who have enticed coyotes out of the hills by feeding them regularly, and those who are determined to rid the hillside residential areas of indigenous wild creatures, are the two extremes and both are wrong because they are motivated by emotionalism and not by expertise. Coyotes should be forced back into the hills and their fear of man should be re­instilled because they are needed in the hills, not in backyards, in order to fulfill their biological function on the food chain as carrion-eaters and rodent exterminators. Their feeding habits are actually beneficial to man. They devour mice, rats and rodents that are harmful to humans, such as the beechey ground squirrel, a vector of the plague. The extermination of coyotes is causing an upsurge of rodent populations and then millions are being spent on broadcasting toxic chemicals to eliminate them. Furthermore, the female coyotes will increase their litter sizes in order to compensate for the losses.

Pervasive Dog Problem

There is an existing dog problem all over the U.S., rather than a coyote problem. The hills are teeming with large domestic dogs turned loose every night, joined by feral dogs, forming packs which are predacious and are killing small wild animals and domestic pets for which the maligned coyotes are being blamed. Some of the German Shepherd dog packs are often mistaken for the look-alike coyotes. They may also breed with coyotes, creating hybrids which are more aggressive than coyotes and are unafraid of man because they are part dogs.

According to the Wildlife Damage Control, 4.7 million dog bites occur every year in the U.S., many of them requiring emergency medical treatment. But if a coyote is merely visible in the hills, where it is supposed to be, not doing any harm, people get hysterical and call in the animal control agencies — and an innocent animal is often killed. Perhaps the most egregious example of how coyotes are vilified is the incident of 1981 in Glendale, California, when a coyote was accused of killing a child. Although animal activists were skeptical that a coyote was to blame, the local authorities went into a frenzy of trapping coyotes, killing more than 50 animals.

Coyotes have been trapped and poisoned for decades. These lethal control methods are controversial, costly, inhumane, and ineffective — and the brouhaha regarding coyotes continues unabated. Therefore in 1970 we introduced an innovative entirely new concept: nonlethal alternatives. Our nonlethal recommendations consist of several steps:

  1. Since people and not the animals are responsible for the urban wildlife conflicts, we authored an educational publication in 1975, “How To Coexist with Urban Wildlife” — do’s and don’ts for hillside residents.
  2. We prepared an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of wild animals enacted into law in 1987, Ordinance number 162993.
  3. The installation of drinking ponds in the hills to keep thirsty wild creatures away from swimming pools and backyard faucets.

At first our recommendations were ridiculed, with critics saying that only trapping would mitigate the ongoing problem, but we kept on fighting and eventually all of our recommendations have been implemented in many areas. And according to the thank you letters written by city and county officials, it proves that not trapping but educating the public how to deal with the wild creatures is the ultimate solution.

The educational publication we authored, “How to Coexist with Urban Wildlife,” was the first of its kind ever published. Since then many animal control agencies and several animal organizations have duplicated our original publication; some of them even boasted that THEY were the ones who came up with the above-mentioned nonlethal alternatives. We don’t mind that the credit due to us has been denied, as long as it benefits the animals.

If the instructions outlined in the brochure we authored are followed, peaceful coexistence with wildlife is possible. That is the reason for this article — to urge animal control agencies to implement the above-mentioned nonlethal control methods in lieu of lethal programs which are decimating our diminishing wild creatures.

The writer takes full responsibility for all the statements made in the above article.

Footnote: Inhumane cruel acts have an adverse and demoralizing effect on those who practice them and makes them insensitive toward all living beings, humans, and animals alike.

The Fish and Game Department is supposed to be the steward of indigenous California Wildlife, but it is betraying this sacred trust. Furthermore, it is also breaking the law. In 1842 the Supreme Court decreed that “wildlife is the property of all the people” and is certainly not the sole property of the hunter.

Lila Brooks - headshotLila Brooks has led a remarkable life, from her birth on February 18, 1913 in Hungary, her volunteer work for the United States military in WWII, her hilltop home in the Hollywood Hills and finally to years of tireless work for defenseless wild animals. She founded California Wildlife Defenders and can claim numerous accomplishments including the anti-feeding animals ordinance that became a law enacted in cities and counties all over the U.S. She established wildlife drinking ponds in the hills, created an ordinance to save raptors from getting caught in leghold traps, testified before the state assembly in Sacramento and numerous city councils, gave lectures in school and has written many publications. At the age of 104, she is still active through her writings. Her new book “The Chronicle of a Coyote Defender” is available through Amazon. Lila can be reached at

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