Coyote encounters put residents on alert

Courtesy of Andrea Brenholz
Andrea Brenholz shares a cuddle with her dogs, Rory, left, and Romeo. Romeo recently died in a coyote attack.

By the time Andrea Brenholz adopted Romeo from a San Jose rescue organization, the teacup poodle was so traumatized by living on the streets that he wouldn’t allow her to hug him. In the three years that followed, however, Brenholz and her pup developed an incredibly close bond.

“Once he trusted me, he became the most loving and loyal companion that anyone could ask for,” the Los Altos Hills resident said. “He was always by my side when he was alive, and he will continue to be even though he is in heaven.”

Romeo, 3, died Nov. 11 after a coyote snatched him from his fenced Manuella Road yard. His remains were discovered the following day in a neighbor’s apricot orchard. His death marks the latest deadly encounter between a local pet and coyotes, another alarming anecdote spurring fed-up residents to seek potential avenues for action.

Their options for recourse are limited, however.

Unlicensed citizens are not permitted to trap or kill coyotes, but they may hire an independent licensed trapper who is, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The trapper must ultimately euthanize the coyote; relocation is not allowed.

The Santa Clara County Vector Control District is a San Jose-based agency that assists the public with resolving wildlife-related problems. Up until the mid-2000s, the district’s policy regarding nuisance animals such as skunks, raccoons, opossums and coyotes was to trap and exterminate them, but the agency’s focus has since changed, said Russell Parman, district assistant manager.

“Our foundation is education,” he noted. “We try to teach folks how to coexist with these animals.”

The district recommends hazing, techniques that reinforce an animal’s natural fear of humans. Examples include yelling, blowing whistles and sounding horns in a coyote’s presence. District technicians also are on hand to make free home visits during which they’ll assess a property to determine whether it’s vulnerable to unwelcome wildlife.

Release or euthanize?

Trapping and euthanizing is a last resort, and the decision to do so is made at a senior level within the district after careful consideration, Parman said.

“Unfortunately, a coyote taking a few pets may not lead to trapping,” he said.

But a history of reports about a specific coyote concern might.

A month’s worth of reports about missing cats and an injured coyote wandering around suburban San Jose culminated Nov. 8 in technicians from the district and the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley trapping a coyote near the intersection of San Tomas Aquino Road and Payne Avenue. The animal suffered from a severe case of mange and a broken bone in a limb, and it is now being treated at the wildlife center.

Further assessment is needed to determine whether the coyote will be released or humanely euthanized, Parman said.

That concerned residents can make reports to Vector Control came as welcome news to Los Altos Hills resident Brent Jarvis. Jarvis and his friends were soaking in his Jabil Lane hot tub Nov. 18 when they noticed two coyotes threatening the family labradoodle, Bella, just 100 feet or so away.

The coyotes didn’t back down until Jarvis and his friends chased them off.

“It was pretty scary,” Jarvis said. “We were worried about our dog. She’s not the brightest dog. We were scared she might have played with them.”

To make a formal report about a wildlife problem to the Santa Clara County Vector Control District, call (408) 918-4770 or complete an online service request at

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