BY JAMES ROBINSON
Los Alamos County Councilor
Over the last few days, I have been reading many comments on various Facebook pages about coyotes in our community. I feel like there are some misconceptions about the wildlife in Los Alamos that need to be addressed.
First, it is true that we are seeing an increase in wildlife activity in Los Alamos and White Rock. There are for many reasons, but most significant are the ongoing drought, and destruction of the Cerro Grande and Las Conchas fires on the surrounding forest. Los Alamos has always had wildlife come into town, but now we have become the most convenient food and water source for miles around. This is leading to more wildlife encounters with bears, bobcats, coyotes, deer, etc.
Second, like any other predator, a coyote’s population will track with the availability of prey. As some have noted, we have seen an increase in mice, gophers, and deer across the county. These are all great food sources for coyotes and many other predators, and if the food supply is there, predators will increase in number.
Third, hunting is not a deterrent to wildlife, nor does it “teach them a lesson.” When done right, hunting by humans is natural for all wildlife, and will not stop them from seeking the food they need to survive.
I have lived in Los Alamos long enough to remember times when coyotes became a problem. I have also been here when people have worried that they might have died out in the area. I know it’s terrible to see your pet lost to a predator, but it is an unfortunate risk due to where we live, but it’s a risk we take by living here.
There are certain things we can do to help. First, try to keep small pets inside. Second, if you fear any wildlife coming into your yard, put up an electric a fence. They are great at keeping things out. Third, if you feed birds, try cleaning the area around the feeder. Stray seeds are great for small rodents, and even deer. Fourth, related to bird seed, try to reduce the rodent population around your yard. Fifth, carry bear mace with you while you are walking. This is not only a great deterrent for bears, but will definitely deter coyotes. Finally, try not to walk or hike alone, be loud while on your journey, and keep your dog on a leash.
If you are looking to reduce your rodent population, PLEASE do not use poison and glue traps. These methods tend to be cruel and often catch or kill other wildlife like owls or hawks.
Like bears, it is up to us to be proactive to prevent wildlife encounters and incursions. The options above are just ideas I have for living with wildlife. Please contact the Pajarito Environmental Education Center or New Mexico Game and Fish if you have any further questions.