Los Altos Hills resident Stephen Grant wants to spread the word that coyotes are acting more aggressively than he has ever experienced.
The avid trail walker has personal experience to prove his point. When approached by three coyotes on a Byrne Preserve trail behind Westwind Barn Oct. 21, it marked the third time in the past two and a half weeks he and his dog, Rocky, had been confronted by the animals at the same spot on the trail.
Neither Grant, a 19-year Los Altos Hills resident, nor his gentle Labrador Retriever have been harmed in the encounters, but he doesn’t want to press his luck nor does he want other hikers to press theirs.
“I’m not going to be going down there anytime soon,” said Grant, who had been walking the trail virtually every week since moving to the area. Although the town had posted two small signs on a fence at the preserve border along Altamont Road, Grant doesn’t think that’s sufficient warning. He also noted that the vagueness in the message leaves hikers with no idea when the signs were put up or when the danger might pass.
City Clerk Deborah Padovan said the town would add signs with more specific wording that discourage hiking with dogs on the trails for the months during coyote pup-rearing season – April through October.
Investigation of coyote sightings in nature preserves is the purview of the California Department of Fish & Game. Santa Clara County Vector Control handles sightings in urban environments. Padovan said she’s received additional recent calls about coyotes.
“We always want people to call 911 when it’s happening,” she said. “It’s hard to find the coyotes (after the fact).”
Jose Colome, a community resources specialist with vector control, said his records show one coyote sighting in the Bryne Preserve area reported last month. If requested, Colome said a vector control technician would inspect the area to confirm the number of animals and evaluate if they are behaving abnormally. His agency would then contact Fish & Game, which has jurisdiction.
Colome said coyotes, while normally shy, would act more aggressively to protect other pack members.
He advised hikers to be careful with trash, which attracts animals and to educate themselves about coyote hazing. Similar to run-ins with bears or cougars, hazing amounts to scaring the animals by making eye contact, loud noises and waving arms to convey a threat.
Grant said he did exactly that, in addition to blowing a whistle, but the coyotes were slow to move away. He added that he would like local authorities to take the issue more seriously.
For more information, visit sccvector.org.