By John Earl
Surf City Voice
The coyote is the predator de jour in Huntington Beach and some of the city’s residents at a recent city council study session were howling mad that city officials hadn’t done enough to stop the crafty predators from invading their neighborhoods to eat their cats and dogs and stalk adults and children.
A retired police officer who spoke out at the meeting even hinted at vigilante action. “I don’t have a weapon,” he said, explaining his reaction to seeing three coyotes on his street, “but you know what I feel like doing.”
Local politicians, police, Fish & Game and county officials alike got the message and have launched an action plan to help protect the people from coyote attacks.
Councilmember Don Hansen called the issue a “public safety problem” that “we need to deal with and get to the level of eradicating these coyotes, killing them, whatever it takes with the problem ones. I think we need to do that immediately.”
The conflict between coyotes and people in Huntington Beach is real and was outlined in detail recently in the Surf City Voice (Monster vs. Coyote, April 14). As noted in the article, there were 80 complaint calls to the police about coyotes in 2009, a steep rise from previous years.
Besides killing small cats and dogs, the likelihood that coyotes will harm people is still small but growing in some Huntington Beach neighborhoods. So far, however, although stalking behavior has been reported, no actual attacks by coyotes are on record in the city.
In fact, in the entire United States, coyote attacks, although on the increase, are relatively rare and only one person, a child, is known to have died from a coyote attack.
But there is another, growing and much greater danger to children and adults than coyotes that comes from another member of the canine family, a cousin to the coyote—the domesticated dog.
Judging from statistics gathered by the Center for Disease Control, attorneys, and the city of Huntington Beach, the city council might be doing a greater favor for citizens if it held a study session on what do to about aggressive dogs.
Here are some of the facts, taken from the Center for Disease Control and other sources, that a study session could consider:
There are 74.8 million dogs in America.
About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the United States and 885,000 of those attacks require medical attention.
About 368,000 dog bite victims a year (or 1,008 per day) end up in hospital emergency rooms.
In 2006, 31,000 people had reconstructive surgery due to dog attacks.
Dog bits are the fifth ranked cause of EMR visits by children.
Each year 2,851 letter carriers are bitten by dogs, according to the U.S. Postal Service.
Dog bites cost Americans an estimated $1 billion a year due to financial liability and insurance industry payouts, according to a report of the American Medical Association in 1995.
Fifty-percent of dog bites occur in the dog owner’s home.
Children from 5 – 9 years old are the most likely age group to be attacked by dogs.
People with two or more dogs in the home are five times more likely to be bitten than people without dogs in the home.
From 1979 – 1994 279 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1979 – 1994 279 end_of_the_skype_highlighting people were killed by dogs in the U.S., and average of 20 people per year.
Between 2005 and 2009, 148 people were killed by dogs in the U.S. (59 percent of the fatal attacks from 2005 – 2008 were by pit bulls). In 2009 alone there were 32 fatal attacks on people by dogs; 44 percent of those were by pit bulls, 63 percent of the victims were children and 60 percent of the victims were age 2 or younger.
In contrast, there have been are only 89 documented coyote attacks on people or their nearby pets and 77 cases of coyotes stalking people since 1988, with most cases occurring in southern California.
The number of people bitten by a coyote in Huntington Beach is zero, according to HB Chief of Police Kenneth Small.
But statistics from the Orange County Animal Control and Huntington Beach Police Department show that there were 2,026 complaints about aggressive stray dogs in the city, 601 investigations of dogs attacking other dogs, and 2,626 investigations of alleged animal bites in all categories, wild and domestic, animal on animal or animal to human.