At first, residents in a west San Jose neighborhood didn’t see increased coyote-related activity as ominous foreshadowing.
A few weeks ago, they heard howling and spotted the creatures in their yards. Then a neighbor, Delia Gee, told Paul and Jennifer Flattery about how her cat was eaten by one last year.
A week later, the Flattery’s cat Simba was killed, found ripped apart in a neighbor’s yard with only fur left around the 15-year-old American shorthair’s paws.
When neighbor Tina Brown first discovered the grisly scene, her husband suspected area kids had killed it. She thought otherwise and, with a little bit of searching, concluded that coyotes were most likely the culprit.
The Flattery family called their local wildlife authorities and received disappointing news: Any coyotes in their area could not be relocated.
Jen Costantin, outreach and education director of the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, told the Merc that California law prohibits coyotes from being captured or relocated except in cases where the animal is sick, injured or orphaned:
“There are laws in the state against relocating wildlife. We don’t believe trapping and relocating them is something that’s available.”
Paul Flattery said that he doesn’t understand why the laws are set up this way, as pets like Simba are important parts of many families and their loss can be devastating:
“Simba had been around a long time, and he was a very close part of our family. Part of our frustration is that no one seems to care when cats are being killed, but what they don’t realize is that how much that cat meant to the handful of people that owned him.”
Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote, a group focused on peaceful cohabitation between humans and coyotes, said that there are steps people may take to avoid coyote encounters and thus lessen the need to remove coyotes from the area.
She told the Merc that removing attractions like fallen fruit, water sources and open trash bins can keep coyotes from snooping around where they’re not welcome.
The Flatterys, Browns and Gees all own other pets. Though they wish the coyotes could make their hunting ground somewhere else, Tina Brown realizes that simply moving the predators won’t solve the problem:
“People need to be made aware of this, and we are hoping for a way to get them away. In my opinion they need to be caught and moved way up into the hills, although if they do they’ll just come back.”