Photo: Katherine Montgomery
One of the reasons I love Los Angeles is its blurred line between urban and wild life. Hawks are often sighted soaring above the 101 freeway, and P-22, our Griffith Park resident mountain lion, has become a new kind of Hollywood celebrity. It is easy to champion these interspecies citizens from a distance, but we must also support their habitat as part of our community.
Living so close to wildlife is becoming unavoidable as humans encroach more and more upon their territory. I have encountered many coyotes on my early morning runs through Highland Park. A friend of mine just posted a video of a bear in his neighbor’s pool in Altadena. We’ve all seen the video of the mountain lion in a Los Feliz basement. These animals are charming, but they are also doing their best to live in altered and often hostile environments. As landscape architects and planners, it is our job to assess the impact of our proximity, and adjust our designs and methods to support coexistence.
Last weekend during an afternoon walk, my husband and I crossed paths with a coyote suffering from a serious case of mange. He was thin and disoriented, with barely any hair. A neighbor said he had already called the city wildlife hotline. Concerned about the coyote’s fate, I also called and was told he would be caught and euthanized. One more phone call to the California Wildlife Center, and I learned I could email their vet and request a dead, medicated mouse to leave for the coyote. With one to several treatments, he could be cured of the mange. Unfortunately, the city captured him first.
In the last few years, there has been increasing research on the link between wildlife mange and rodenticides. Even P-22 has suffered the negative effects of rodenticide. Many animals along the food chain are natural rodent predators, including mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, as well as owls and hawks. All of these animals are poisoned second-hand when they eat poisoned rats, mice, or rabbits.
This month AB-2242 – a bill banning all anticoagulant first and second generation rodenticides in California – will be moved forward to the Committee of Water, Parks, and Wildlife for approval. You can submit a public comment by April 23 by following the directions on the Project Coyote website. This bill is also supported by RATS (Raptors Are The Solution) and Poison Free Malibu. Much like the historic ban on DDT that saved the bald eagle, this movement has the potential to save California’s iconic wildlife
Los Angeles: “This is the city-wide follow up to Ian Wood’s aerial exploration of downtown Los Angeles from last year. And much like with downtown, he continues to be awe struck by how much of this vast city that is partially or completely overlooked.”
The World’s 13 Most Inspiring Trees: “Whether it’s the world’s most famous Joshua tree or a lonely island palm, world travelers can find various amazing trees along their travels. As you can see, they definitely found what they were looking for.”
New York Needs Coyotes: “Coyotes may be wily, even virtually invisible, but they’re changing our cities.”
Can This ‘Drinkable Book’ Improve Public Health? “While earning her doctorate in chemistry at McGill in Montreal, Theresa Dankovich engineered the a system for purifying water by sifting and trapping microscopic bacteria in a filtration system made from heavy-duty paper. The sturdy pulp in The Drinkable Book is laced with silver and copper nanoparticles that are deadly to microbes such as E. coli.”
Santa Monica Gets L.A. County’s First Ever Bike-Share Program: “The wheels are finally turning. L.A. County’s first public bike-share program recently launched in Santa Monica as part of a test run.”
P22, aka The Griffith Park Mountain Lion, is Los Angeles’ most famous monitored predator. He made the news recently when he wandered out of the hills of Griffith Park and into the basement of someone’s home. Thankfully, P22 came out of the basement on its own and returned to the hills, but the story reminds us that urban carnivores are present right in our backyard.
A few days after P22 became front page news, I attended a lecture about how a growing population of coyotes live among millions of people in Chicago. Professor Stan Gehrt of Ohio State University presented some of the findings from a study of Chicago’s coyote population which he and a team of researchers began in 2000. Gehrt refers to coyotes as “ghost dogs.”
“Coyotes were not part of the urban fauna of Chicago…their success in the urban landscape depends on their ability to hide from us. They are trying to be ghosts while they live with us.”
Gehrt unfolded an amazing wildlife story about how coyotes have managed to colonize metropolitan Chicago and live in close proximity with people. Despite a common fear and perception that coyotes will harm us and our pets, coyotes will stay out of human sight to avoid interactions with us whenever possible.
Statistically, coyotes are more likely to fall victim from human interventions (e.g., cars, trappings) than the other way around.
I was captivated by videos showing coyotes roaming the city at night, alone or with a mate, and Gehrt’s stories about the study’s first female and her mate, which researchers nicknamed “Melon Head.” Most importantly, I listened as Gehrt and four other wildlife biologists, who joined him for the lecture’s Q&A, urged the audience to appreciate predation. Coyotes, mountain lions, foxes and other predators are valued for restoring balance to the urban ecosystem by keeping other animal populations in check.
P22 and Melon Head have learned to adapt their behaviors in order to co-exist in an environment made up of diverse species and habitats. Surely, we can learn how to do the same.