Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Coyotes in Santa Monica

There have been recent reports of coyotes in Santa Monica, but their presence is nothing new. I've enjoyed nocturnal walks in Santa Monica for the past 20 years, and I see coyotes, on average, every 18 months.

One weekend in November, at around 3:30 a.m., I saw two coyotes wandering California Avenue and 4th Street. It's the first time I saw a coyote couple since the late 1990s, when I'd occasionally see a pair wandering around 15th Street, near Alta and Marguerita.

Almost always I see lone coyotes, north of Montana Avenue, in the wee morning hours. But in early 2012 I saw four coyotes along Georgina, between 14th and 17th, around 4 a.m. They entered a homeowner's front yard, and from there, presumably, the back yard.

In 2011 I saw a coyote around Georgina and 21st, at 8 p.m., Saturday. (I assume there's less traffic to scare them off on weekends.) He followed me a few blocks, the only time I ever saw such a fearless coyote. Even the pack of four kept their distance from me. In the early 2000s, I saw one coyote several times, on Centinella.

I've never had problems with coyotes. If one follows me, I stop and stare at him. He always stops too, and seeing that I'm unafraid, follows me no more.

I've seen racoons and what looked like possums on Centinella Avenue. I've seen a possum on California Avenue. I've seen racoons -- whole families of them -- north of Montana. And a lone raccoon on Arizona Avenue, my only wildlife spotting in the mid-City area. Several times, when they see me, the racoons rush for a storm drain, where they apparently live.

I've never met a hostile coyote. They mostly seem wary or uninterested. Whereas racoons often look at me with fierce, hostile expressions. At least that's how they look to me. But they keep their distance, and I keep mine.

Santa Monica is beautiful in the wee hours. Smog and heat have dissipated. No noisy traffic. No people shouting into cell phones. And occasionally, one is lucky enough to see wildlife.