By Mary O’KEEFE
With the recent death of a local family pet, residents of the foothills have been reminded that wildlife is all around. Seeing a bobcat, coyote, mountain lion and bear is not that uncommon but they are usually only passing through. So when it appeared that a mountain lion had killed their beloved dog Bridget, the Mattersteig family decided it was time to not only warn neighbors but the entire community.
Mattersteig is working with wildlife officials and has arranged a Q&A forum on lions, coyotes, bears and bobcats on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The event is presented by the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and will feature Lt. Supervisor Marty Wall, biologist Rebecca Barboza and Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. It will be held at the La Crescenta Center for Spiritual Living hosted by Rev. Beverly Craig and the Care Council.
The mountain lion threat is not going away, which Mattersteig knows all too well.
“It came back,” Kim Mattersteig said of the mountain lion.
In the early morning hours of Nov. 23, Mattersteig discovered her dog had been “torn apart” by some type of animal. Bridget had used the doggy door to go outside the night before and never came back in. After contacting Los Angeles County Animal Control, the Mattersteigs discovered the attack was most likely from a mountain lion.
Then on Friday night the cat came back. The Mattersteigs heard something in the backyard, exactly where Bridget was attacked. They looked out their back door and saw a mountain lion. Mattersteig’s daughter grabbed an air horn and scared the cat away.
There have also been reports of bears in the area and several residents have contacted CVW concerning a “gang” of coyotes in neighborhoods.
According to Lt. SupervisorWall, the cries of coyotes can be deceptive.
“One coyote can sound like three,” he said. “They can do a series of yips … when they are making noise they are calling to each other. Believe me – when they are hunting, you don’t hear a peep.”
Wall said that sometimes the way coyotes communicate can give the illusion that there are several animals when there are in fact only a couple; however, with the recent sightings, it seems a certainty that more than a couple are hunting in foothill neighborhoods.
A resident in La Cañada reported seeing eight to 10 together in his backyard. Another resident along Rosemont Avenue also saw eight coyotes walking up the street and a resident in the Briggs Terrace area, near the Mattersteigs home, also saw about 10 coyotes in his neighborhood.
Normally the coyotes seen in the area are thin, however everyone interviewed for this article has said the coyotes are “healthy and big.”
“Then they have found a good [food] supply,” Wall said.
Although it has not been discovered that anyone is feeding the local wildlife, Mattersteig has heard rumors of residents leaving food out for animals.
“There is this notion that if I feed these coyotes they won’t eat my cat,” Wall said. “Well, they will eat your cat and invite friends to come [to the neighborhood].”
He added coyotes have a reproductive rate based on food availability.
“When times are tough, they have small litters; when times are good, [bigger litters],” he said.
Another misconception is that since the Station Fire, wildlife has been starving and is down in the foothills looking for food. Wall said that is not normally the case.
“Animals do just fine,” he said. “After 20 to 30 years, an [old growth forest] is only food for insects and birds.”
But after a fire, the area is open for more vegetation and more grass, which brings more animals.
Wall said the best way to keep safe from wildlife is to be proactive.
“You want to prevent the opportunity for [wildlife to enter a yard],” he said. Wildlife, such as mountain lions and coyotes, are predators and like dark corners and bushes that go all the way to the ground.
“Predators need advantages to hunt; they size up [the situation],” Wall said. “In nature, losing carries the death penalty.”
Animals are smart and look for advantages in a yard like low hanging bushes. Wall advises residents to trim bushes off the ground to above two feet.
He also advises installing motion sensor lights and has just found another possible deterrent online- a motion detector sprinkler system. Although he has yet to check this system out, if it works Wall thinks it may be a good deterrent to wildlife.
“It wouldn’t hurt them, but it would surprise them,” he said.
Wall plans to discuss these options as well as other ways residents can live in harmony with wildlife at the forum on Tuesday.
The La Crescenta Center for Spiritual Living is located at 4845 Dunsmore Ave. in La Crescenta. The Wildlife Forum will begin at at 7 p.m.