Council tries multi-tiered approach to coyotes

Posted 2/9/09

As the South Metro area grapples with urban coyotes, Centennial and its neighbor Greenwood Village took very different approaches to the problem this …

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Council tries multi-tiered approach to coyotes


As the South Metro area grapples with urban coyotes, Centennial and its neighbor Greenwood Village took very different approaches to the problem this week.

After an hour’s deliberation, the Centennial City Council gave final approval Feb. 2 to a plan that mixes educational outreach, coyote monitoring and restrained mitigation.

The resolution passed 7-1 with District 4 Councilmember Ron Weidmann casting the only vote against. District 1’s Betty Ann Habig was not present.

On the same evening, the Greenwood Village City Council voted unanimously to approve an educational plan and a sweeping extermination policy that by contrast includes regular trapping and shooting of the animals.

While Centennial’s resolution includes the targeted killings of specific problem coyotes as a last resort, Greenwood Village has applied for a permit to set random traps and will hire shooters to kill coyotes.

“It will be in targeted areas where there’s a heavy population. It’s a population control measure,” said police Lt. Joe Harvey, Greenwood Village’s designated spokesman on the coyote issue.

Greenwood Village Mayor Nancy Sharpe could not be reached for comment.

The comparatively aggressive move by Greenwood Village comes nearly two months after Centennial began abandoning consideration of a broad policy for lethal mitigation.

At a Dec. 8 council meeting, representatives from the Colorado Division of Wildlife and others made a detailed presentation to the Centennial council and cautioned against the kind of sweeping policies Greenwood Village has enacted.

Ashley Delaup, a wildlife ecologist for the City and County of Denver, told the council that killing coyotes often results in even larger coyote populations in the future because the animal tends to overcompensate for its losses.

Jack Murphy, director of Denver-based Urban Wildlife Rescue, said when mating alpha males are killed or otherwise removed from the population, it can wreak havoc, causing young coyotes that would not normally mate to do so.

According to Harvey, the Greenwood Village City Council did not consider such factors in its decision.

“That’s something we’ll have to look into,” he said.

Concerns about which direction its neighbor to the north would take clearly played on Centennial officials as they considered final approval of their own coyote management plan.

While both cities mulled their different plans simultaneously, some on the Centennial council wondered if the city should wait and see what Greenwood Village was going to do first.

“Whatever they do is kind of a laboratory. We can observe and make better decisions as we see what happens there,” District 1 Councilmember Rick Dindinger suggested.

Another consideration is a coyote symposium next week for city and county officials throughout metro Denver. Some officials wondered if it might make sense to wait to see if a new regional consensus results from the Feb. 11 event hosted by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

District 4’s Weidmann made unsuccessful motions to delay council action until June before casting the sole vote against enacting the coyote management plan.

“If we’re looking at dangerous animals, there’s probably more chance of a domestic animal being dangerous than a coyote,” he said, citing a Centennial pit bull that had been euthanized after an attack on a human.

Although a failed amendment to delay action until early March received the support of four councilmembers, Weidmann was the only official to vote for holding off all action until June.

Most supported the idea of moving forward and amending the management plan if future events suggest a needed change in course.

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t implement the plan that we have in place without [Greenwood Village’s] lethal measures,” Mayor Randy Pye said to colleagues. “If it turns out Greenwood Village is more successful, then maybe we just implement that part of the plan.”

The educational component of Centennial’s course of action includes encouraging residents to remove pet food, fallen fruit and other such items from their lawns, to install 6-foot-tall privacy fences, and above all, to never intentionally feed a coyote, among other advisories.

The council may also consider ordinances to allow higher fences and to legally prohibit the feeding of wildlife, a prohibition Greenwood Village already has in place.

Centennial’s program includes elements of “coexistence” with coyotes and use of so-called “hazing” methods to instill fear of humans in the urbanized animal. These methods can include anything from yelling and throwing objects at coyotes to professional use of paint balls and slingshots.

According to figures provided by the city, it will cost Centennial $65,000 to implement what it calls a Level 1 version of the program. The annual figure includes $20,000 for a part-time staff-intern knowledgeable about coyote issues, $2,000 for coyote hazing, $18,000 for staff support and $15,000 in educational materials and postage.

In the case of killing coyotes that have become habitual problems, the city would expect to spend about $1,000 to identify each aggressive coyote, $8,000 to hire a trapper and $1,500 for a shooter. The more expensive designated levels 2 and 3 would have cost the city between $80,000 and $100,000 a year.

Centennial already has begun efforts to educate the public about coyotes by distributing brochures and reaching out to neighborhoods and school districts. A prominently displayed coyote incident report system also has been added to the city Web site.


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