Someone feeding the wildlife near the Rosburg Fitness Center may have inadvertently caused a woman to get bitten by a coyote late February.
Base wildlife experts from Edwards AFB Environmental Management believe the woman walked too close to a coyote’s preferred hunting spot, where they found evidence someone had been spreading bird seed. The area is where the paved bicycle path meets the parking lot near the Fitness and Sports Center.
“All wild animals are opportunistic,” said Mark Hagan, base wildlife biologist. “The coyote learned this was a great area to hunt rodents who were eating the bird seed.”
Biologists found evidence the coyote was using a large bush nearby as a concealed hiding spot.
“We suspect the coyote was defending a favorite hunting spot.”
Environmental Management placed signs in the area to warn people visiting the parking lot. However, if people do not stop feeding the wildlife it could happen again.
Feeding wildlife can also be dangerous to your wallet. Security forces will write tickets to people they see feeding wildlife.
“Violators will be cited, including civilians who can be cited under California Law,” said Master Sgt. Pedro Gonzalez, 412th Security Forces Squadron.
If found guilty, those violating the state law may receive fines from $300 to $2,000 and up to a year in jail.
Gonzalez said 412th SFS members are learning the coyotes’ and bobcats’ habits. “We’ve found some animals work on a schedule and will be in certain parts of the housing area in the late afternoon,” he said. “We’re there to harass them.”
412th SFS has personnel certified to use compressed air guns that fire specialized irritant projectiles to discourage coyotes and bobcats from staying in the housing area, he said. Despite these efforts, base residents and workers need to do their share.
“People need to modify their behavior,” said Lt. Col. Michael Rakoczy, 412th Mission Support Group deputy commander. “We need to keep the wild animals wild.”
Environmental Management encourages base residents and workers to help with the effort to make the populated areas of Edwards less enticing to predators with the following tips:
* Remove all outside food sources. Never keep pet food or water outside; they attract hungry predators and other wild animals.
* Do not feed predators. This encourages them to stay.
* Do not feed their native prey. This includes birds, rabbits, rats or squirrels. Putting out food for these animals encourages native desert animals to stay in the area. This attracts predators.
* Secure garbage cans so they cannot be easily knocked over or opened. Use a rope or elastic cord to secure the can to a fence or other immovable object and another cord to keep the container closed. Put garbage out just before it is collected. Don’t leave trash bags outside a secured container even on pick-up days. If ravens, animals or the wind spread garbage outside the can, clean it up immediately.
* Trim high grass, overgrown tree limbs, bushes and shrubs to minimize hiding places or shady spots.
* Report broken or mistimed landscape irrigation fittings like sprinklers or bubblers that are leaking or leaving puddles.
Apply these measures to keep yourself safe and discourage coyotes from staying in the developed areas of Edwards.
* Arm yourself with a stick, golf club, horn or loud whistle when walking or running.
* Pay attention to your surroundings at all times, including developed areas like parking lots.
Be the ALPHA animal
* Make predators uncomfortable.
* Make eye contact.
* Never panic or run from a predator.
* Make yourself appear larger than you are.
* Talk loudly or yell to distinguish yourself as a threat.
* Throw rocks or sticks.
* Wave golf clubs or large sticks at them.
* Turn your body sideways and slowly walk away from the animal.
* Always make sure a predator has an escape route. Cornering an animal near a fence or a building will increase their aggressiveness and they will tend to lash out in fear.
* Never get between a mother predator and her pups or kittens.
Normally, coyotes do not attack humans. If a wild animal threatens you, fight back. Get to a safe location and call 911 – or (661) 277-5450 from a mobile phone. Seek medical attention if you are bitten or scratched. Report all animal bites to Public Health at (661) 277-2244.
For more information on living with desert wildlife, contact Environmental Management at (661) 277-1401.