Well-heeled Belvedere residents turned into an angry mob at a special city council meeting last week about coyotes.
With a rallying cry of “kill the coyotes,” locals made it clear they want the animals removed from their tony town by any means necessary—including paying federal snipers to shoot them. Some residents advocated taking up arms themselves to kill coyotes on their property, saying the canids have snatched pets and it’s only a matter of time before an elderly person or child is attacked.
Despite the best efforts of state and county wildlife experts the city called upon to make a presentation at the Feb. 16 meeting, it became apparent residents didn’t want to hear recommendations on how to coexist with the animals. They even booed one of the presenters when she tried to elaborate on hazing, a method used to scare the coyotes away from humans.
About 25 people spoke during the public comment period, the majority wanting the coyotes destroyed. The four who dissented didn’t live in Belvedere.
“I think you guys need to take action before someone gets killed,” resident David Likas said. “It’s going to be on your head. And one thing to make clear—it is legal to shoot at that predator on your property.”
Actually, it is not legal to shoot at coyotes or other animals in the city, Belvedere Police Chief Jason Wu told the Pacific Sun in an email. Discharging firearms, air rifles and other missile-projecting devices is prohibited by municipal code.
Another speaker complained of being awakened in the middle of the night by the coyotes’ “wild cackling.” Some alluded to the inconvenience they experience because of the coyotes.
“I’m the biggest animal fanatic, but they’ve got to be killed,” resident Laura Gillespie said. “They’ve got to be eradicated, because I can’t let my dog out to enjoy our backyard without watching him all the time.”
Even with no evidence that Belvedere is overrun by coyotes presenting a public safety issue—defined by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as scratching or biting a human—the five city council members agreed that action must be taken. Since it is illegal to relocate coyotes in California, that leaves two options: learn to safely coexist with the animals or kill them.
At the conclusion of the contentious three and a half hour meeting, the council instructed the city manager to contact the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services “to see what they can do for us.”
The mention of Wildlife Services alarmed those familiar with the agency, which critics call a “tax funded killing machine.” In 2021, Wildlife Services killed almost 1.8 million animals, including more than 64,000 coyotes, although its stated mission is to “provide expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.”
Marin County ended its contract with Wildlife Services in 2000, primarily because of public outcry against the agency’s lethal methods, such as neck snares and poison, according to Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote, a national nonprofit based in Larkspur. Other counties have followed Marin’s lead, also terminating agreements with the agency and adopting non-lethal wildlife management programs.
Another concern often cited about Wildlife Services is the accidental killing of non-target animals. Dogs, cats and even bald eagles are among the thousands of unintentional victims killed every year by the agency.
It’s not the first time the City of Belvedere has considered an ill-conceived plan for wildlife management. In 2016, the city council spent months reviewing a deer sterilization program, driven by residents’ complaints about the animals eating landscaping and losing their fear of people. The plan was eventually abandoned.
Belvedere, with a population of less than 2,300, is technically an island, which residents say makes their wildlife situation unique. However, roads connect Belvedere to the Tiburon Peninsula, and coyotes inhabit urban areas throughout the county.
“This situation is not unique to Belvedere,” Fox said. “Coyotes, and wolves for that matter, coexist with humans in other peninsulas and islands across North America.”
While Fox believes that science-based information will quell Belvedere’s fear that coyotes pose a danger to their children, so far residents aren’t listening. The city began an education campaign last year after receiving reports of coyote sightings. Efforts were stepped up in October when a resident posted on social media that her small dog had been killed by a coyote.
Three attacks on pets have been reported in 2023, Belvedere Police Chief Wu said. Last year, one woman filed a complaint which consisted of anecdotal information regarding “on-going attacks on her animals.”
Wu says there have been no reports of physical contact between humans and coyotes. However, resident Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame, stated in the meeting that he kicked a coyote in the head after it shot out of the bushes and ran toward his 15-pound dog.
Other claims by residents include sightings of 50-pound coyotes pursuing their large dogs and packs of coyotes roaming the streets. Hazing doesn’t work because the animals no longer fear humans, they say.
A vast expanse exists between scientific knowledge of coyotes and the notions espoused by residents. Western coyotes, on average, weigh 20 to 35 pounds. While a coyote family may be seen together, especially when the parents take pups out of the den to prepare them for life on their own, coyotes here don’t typically hunt in packs.
Sending in the federal sharpshooters could actually backfire on the community, Fox said. A coyote pair stays in a territory and keeps out non-family members. When one of the alpha pair is killed, it provokes “social chaos.”
“The younger coyotes can then start to breed at an earlier age—so within a very short period of time, the local coyote population may increase as a result of lethal control practices,” Fox said.
Coyote attacks on humans are rare, with only two recorded deaths in the United States and Canada, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Most problems occur when coyotes become habituated to being fed, intentionally or unintentionally, by humans. Even then, assertive hazing does shape coyote behavior.
“We heard a high level of fear against the coyote and a lack of wanting to change practices,” said Marin Humane CEO Nancy McKenney, who attended the city council meeting via Zoom. “I think they should try hazing now—before going to this extreme lethal removal.”
Long-time Belvedere resident Ellie Phipps Price believes that those who spoke at the meeting represent a vocal minority. While the coyotes in the neighborhood have never been aggressive toward her or her dogs, she’s not discounting the experience of her neighbors.
The community should work together to prevent conflict with the animals by using forceful hazing techniques, removing food sources and keeping unattended pets inside, according to Phipps Price, who also owns a ranch where coyotes are frequent visitors. She is adamantly opposed to hiring Wildlife Services to kill the coyotes.
“I received an email from the city manager that said the city is still in the fact-finding stage,” Phipps Price said. “I hope they take their time because killing the coyotes in Belvedere is not going to be pretty. They’ll die with a lot of pain, trauma and screaming.”
The Marin Coyote Coalition’s webinar, ‘Coexisting with Coyotes,’ can be viewed here.
There were many of us virtually present who are opposed to the frenzied pitchfork and torch waving townsfolk trying to coax the local government into the ineffective culling and murder of another species, so the old, fat, and rich can stroll down the local boardwalk showing off their prized groomed inbred pets. Most of the attendees refused to consider the wisdom and experience shared by the experts who were invited to talk some sense into them and teach them about effective methods of deterring coyotes, but the mob was out for blood. The problem in Belvedere isn’t the coyotes, it’s ignorance.
Well said Keith. Coyotes live everywhere in Marin County, why should this surprise anyone? I live in the Novato countryside and hear them on a regular basis and rather enjoy their wild howling. For twenty seven years I lived in San Anselmo and saw them regularly during the day and heard their howling at night. For eleven years I had a small dog and hiked all over the county especially Sorich park which is filled with coyotes. I am sincerely hoping that the vocal minority on Belvedere island reconsider their wishes to “eradicate” the coyote population. What a short sighted an uneducated idea this is. Protect your pets – Yes, Kill the coyotes – no.
It “suprises” people because Belvedere was coyote free for decades. Unlike other Marin towns, it doesn’t back up to open space and coyotes simply weren’t there for decades. Geographically, it’s different from San Anselmo and the hiking trails of Marin as there is no direct contact with wilderness.
Your characterization of the anti-coyote crowd in Belvedere as a minority may be misplaced, but there may be no final determination of that until the next municipal election.
I have some sympathy in respect of the geography of Belvedere Island – it is definitely harder to haze the animals off the island and they could become established and urbanized – but so far there have been no reported attacks on people – just three officially reported attacks on animals since Oct 2022. However, in addition to the residents of Belvedere there are a number in Tiburon who have been calling for coyote elimination on the Tiburon Peninsula – there is absolutely no need for such action.
Well, we are not all old, fat and rich and some of us stroll alone. Some of us are middle aged, fat and not rich. I’m worried about coyotes killing my cat. It doesn’t seem that they’re going anywhere regardless of the measures we take. They are a menace, they are scary, and I haven’t the foggiest what the solution is. There certainly are more of them around lately. Not in hills, but right on my street. I am sick to death of self-righteous people telling me to keep my cat inside. It’s cruel. Cats need air and exercise too- not a “catio.” They’re intelligent, curious, and need to be outside sometimes. So that isn’t the answer either.
Allowing your cat to roam freely outside is about as cruel and self-righteous as you can get. You’re virtually guaranteeing your cat will be maimed or killed by a car, dog, or some other predator. Many of us have indoor cats who are perfectly happy and live longer, healthier lives than outdoor cats.
My cats have lived to be 20 years old. I wouldn’t say they “roam freely” but putting a cat in a leash or limiting their exposure to the world outside is cruel and unnatural. We would be safer if we never went out too! Cats are more wild. In general, I am not a fan of captivity. Zoos are loathsome too and are not about conservation.
Are you kidding Denise? Your cat is killing native songbirds while out for fresh air. You should be more worried about fluffy being hit by a car or developing limes disease.
I know this is not easy My vet says he has not seen instances of Lyme disease in cats. Dogs get bitten by ticks. Should we never let them out too? They also need to run and play, and not just walk slowly on a leash. I seriously doubt that the songbird population is being wiped out by cats getting fresh air and exploring a couple of hours a day. I’m getting sick of hearing this. It’s mostly from people who don’t like cats And I don’t like people who don’t like cats! Mostly control freaks, and a lot of dog people are control freaks. Cats are not dogs and anyone putting a cat on a leash is cruel. Period. I do worry about coyotes. Human/wildlife conflict is becoming an ever bigger problem worldwide. It is hard to solve. Keeping my cat inside all the time doesn’t feel like an answer.
I know this is not easy My vet says he has not seen instances of Lyme disease in cats. Dogs get bitten by ticks. Should we never let them out too? They also need to run and play, and not just walk slowly on a leash. I seriously doubt that the songbird population is being wiped out by cats getting fresh air and exploring a couple of hours a day. I’m getting sick of hearing this. It’s mostly from people who don’t like cats And I don’t like people who don’t like cats! Mostly control freaks, and a lot of dog people are control freaks. Cats are not limited like dogs and putting a cat on a leash is cruel. Human/wildlife conflict is becoming an ever bigger problem worldwide. It is hard to solve. Keeping my cat inside all the time doesn’t feel like an answer.
But did you know that cats are an invasive, non-native species that kill thousands of native songbirds each year? This could be reduced by keeping them indoors. And did you know that cars kill 4.5 million cats each year, and their second biggest killers are dogs? This could be reduced by keeping them indoors. Just food for thought.
Thank you Keith & Paul. I really couldn’t have said it any better. I hope these fools decide on a safer, smarter outcome.
The good news is that the City of Belvedere Council is approaching the issue in a considered and rational manner and not just listening to some very vocal residents who seek elimination. The council recognizes there has to be a multi-point plan one that, if necessary, addresses any public safety issue, coupled with the development of a wildlife program that ensures co-existence. Also, the proper eduction of the residents on how to haze and not provide an enticing urban habitat for the animals by leaving out foodstuffs. We’ll see at the upcoming council meetings what the council’s final approach will be. While they have mentioned reaching out to the USDA Wildlife Services, it is my understanding that this would be a last resort. It should be recognized that Belvedere Island has a difficult geography – unlike the rest of the Tiburon Peninsula where it is easier to haze the coyotes back to the open spaces.
Poor pitiful rich people. It’s a shame they are experiencing one of the problems us “regular” people experience. Go ahead and shoot, kill and relocate the coyotes. You will find the wildlife experts are correct in that it will cause more problems. But you can’t tell rich know-it-alls anything.
RECOMMENDED READING: Cleveland Amory’s 1974 book, “MAN KIND? Our War on Wildlife.” Amory was the founder and president of The Fund for Animals (since absorbed by the Humane Society of the U.S.). The war on coyotes never ends, it seems, to our great discredit.
There is an argument to be made for the coyote being here first, so therefor the humans must leave. I’m not making that argument, but would be surprised if someone doesn’t.
I agree. It’s a horrific situation to have to gather up hunters to go on a shooting rampage. I would make that argument, without a problem. I get that we want our pets to be safe and we want to be safe. So, don’t let your pets out to roam freely. But that advice has been repeated for the last 20 year and people still let their pets out, to roam freely… then they are in disbelief when they’re gone. Keep dogs and cats on leashes or attended to in your backyards. And use common sense. They were here before we were.
I don’t believe Belvedere can contract Wildlife Services independently of Marin County, which the article states wisely discontinued it in 2000, as has been the case in several other California counties. Nor should they. Wildlife Services is widely regarded as a rogue arm of the USDA’s Animal & Plant Inspection Service, which largely operates as “guns for hire” at the bequest of ranchers, farmers and residents who deem animals a nuisance, who have skipped the step of employing non lethal deterrents, and who prefer taxpayers pay for the slaughter, which doesn’t solve the problem.
Two things to consider here. Reporter Nikki Silverstein has a bias when it comes to coyote control. She calls Belvedere’s control methods “ill conceived” offering up her biased, unsolicited opinion. Her pro-coyote stance is well documented on social media, therefore someone else should have been assigned to write the article and provided facts without a personal slant. When did reporters start offering their personal opinions? Secondly, Project Coyote is a “pro-coyote-no-matter-what” organization despite the circumstances. Much of the information that they provide is not based on scientific studies. Example: This business that “if you kill coyotes, many more will appear to take their place” is pure fantasy with no basis of scientific fact, and is used as a very successful scare tactic. With regard to the reported pet attacks in Belvedere, conveniently the article makes no mention of the number of pets that have gone missing in the past three years. The moral of this article: Check the source and demand unbiased reporting.
Seems that Nikki, like many residents in Tiburon and Belvedere, supported by comprehensive evidence and recommendations from various Wildlife Groups is encouraging a non-lethal solution. A number of residents have created fear mongering and near hysteria around this issue with limited evidence. No humans have been attacked in the Tiburon / Belvedere area but yes, some animals have been attacked (three reported attacks since Oct 2022) and other have reported pets missing – but as cars are a bigger danger to pets – coyotes may not be the culprits. It would be good to see certain residents be more willing to co-exist rather than resort to elimination.
FYI to everyone else, Lorraine has been feverishly spouting her demented ramblings to anyone who’s unlucky to cross her path. She’s nothing but bored rich person who is drunk on her own entitlement.
If we haven’t learned it by now I don’t know if we ever will. The most extreme are always the one’s screaming the loudest and peddling fear. I’ve lived in Larkspur in Baltimore Canyon for 11 years now. Coyotes can be seen in my yard on any given night. I have had two dogs during this time with no problems.
This said I don’t just let my dogs roam outside unsupervised. We have had our share of neighbors that have lost cats and while that is sad most accepted when they got them that if they were indoor/outdoor cats they were susceptible to becoming part of the circle of life. Living life in such a natural environment means living life on it’s terms. Killing animals in their natural habitat so Felix or Rover can roam free is a crime.
To the person disturbed by the sound of their howling, buy some earplugs.
Astonishing, really….that residents of Belvedere would even consider killing coyotes. It smacks of over-entitlement and this notion that their concerns for the safety of their small pets trumps all else, including the natural balance in an environment where we are the trespassers. Moreover, in their frenzied idiocy they won’t listen to the experts, or reason; especially good and common sense options. Astonishing, but not surprising…
Keep in mind that any comments left by “Lorraine Gemigniani” above or below are being made by someone who is passionately advocating for the “at any lengths” eradication of coyotes from Belvedere, on the Nextdoor App and I would guess by other avenues. She calls research results by experts of the field unfounded and claims their research is “lies and fantasy” because they don’t support her selfish agenda. I would suggest disregarding anything posted by her as the same, lies and fantasy.
Killing is never the answer. It’s too bad that the residents of Belvedere can’t learn to co-exist with the local wildlife. It’s not that difficult. Killing leaves a void that will soon be filled by other coyotes. It’s like hanging out a “vacancy” sign. Indoor/outdoor cats are a menace to wildlife. For those people who insist on letting their cats out, they must accept the reality that those cats are in danger from all kinds of things, including wildlife.
Respect nature and life. Learn to protect animals, they’ve been through fires, drought, and there’s homes and land taken. Do not shoot and kill.
I would certainly take the information provided by Camilla Fox of Project Coyote as accurate and researched before I listened to anything spouted by Lorraine Gemigiani as factual or researched. And as to bias, I have rarely seen more biased commentary than that offered by Lorraine.
Make the area an open-air coyote sanctuary and these beautiful residents can find shelter and peace elsewhere…
Maybe the best option is to cull the invasive human species who have recently pollute the land. Then there can be more biodiversity instead of a monoculture of narcissistic fearful short-sighted parasites with their inbred dogs who don’t care about the past creatures that called this land home. There is a sickness of greed that only hurts our surroundings. We have lost our purpose in harmony with the natural world.