Neighbors warn coyotes are ‘out of control’ in Carmel Valley

A coyote peers through the fence in the backyard of a Carmel Valley home.

An increase in coyote attacks in Carmel Valley and Del Mar has pet owners on alert. On Nextdoor, neighbors in the communities of Torrey Hills, Del Mar Mesa, Ashley Falls and Carmel Valley Circle are warning others about coyote sightings, attacks and, sadly, the losses of beloved family cats and dogs.

One family was left heartbroken after their 8-year-old dog was killed by a coyote while in their backyard on Concannon Court in the Ashley Falls School neighborhood on July 29.

“This coyote situation is the worst I’ve seen in 25 years of living here,” wrote Sue Fountain, who lives in Sea Point townhomes.

The sightings and attacks are happening at various times of day, from early morning hours to dusk, near local parks and in people’s backyards, even those with fences.

“Many people I talk to think their fences provide complete protection for their dogs,” said Carmel Valley resident Diane Williams. “Fences help. But a determined coyote can jump a fence.”

Del Mar Mesa resident Mary Perez said she witnessed a coyote jumping on her backyard masonry wall, which is over 6 feet tall.

“The most amazing thing is the coyote jumped and landed precisely at the top of the wall, which is no more than 6 inches wide. At first I thought it was a cat. They are amazingly agile, stealth and incredibly fast,” Perez said. “After witnessing this in my own backyard, thankful that my dog was inside the house, I completely understand how our Carmel Valley pets have been swiftly snatched from the safety of their backyards.”

Sadie survived a coyote attack in Carmel Valley.

A month ago, Vicki Wright’s dog Sadie was attacked by a coyote in the garden of her home near Ashley Falls School. The attack happened at 9:30 p.m. and her husband ran outside and yelled at the coyote until it left Sadie and jumped over the fence into her neighbors’ yard. The Wrights were at the emergency vet until 1 a.m. getting her stitched up.

“She is back to her normal self but she was very lucky we scared the coyote off,” said Wright, who was startled to see a huge coyote in her garden again around 7:20 a.m. on July 31. “It is scary because they keep coming back. The one I saw in the garden this morning wasn’t scared of me until I screamed at it. They are getting braver by the day.”

Del Mar resident Steven Chinowsky had a similar incident with his 9-and-a-half-week old puppy Rosey, a golden retriever mix, on Hidden Pines Lane and Pine Needles Drive on July 14.

Around 6:15 a.m. that morning Rosey was playing off leash, about 10 feet up a hill in the Chinowsky’s yard.

“All of a sudden I see a blur of fur,” said Chinowsky. “I heard a yelp and I looked and our puppy was gone. Fortunately she yelped and howled as the coyote carried her away and I took off running after it, barefoot in my pajamas.”

He followed Rosey’s sounds as he chased the coyote across the neighbors’ yard. The coyote got trapped, dropped the puppy and ran off. Rosey had smartly crawled and hid under a bush. She was terrified when Chinowsky picked her up from the bush but only had one small bite on the top of her head and after a trip to the vet she was fine.

“It was pretty intense,” Chinowksy said. “I should have known better. Now we don’t take her off leash.”

Rosey the day after her coyote attack in Del Mar. A small puncture wound can be seen on her head.

Chinowsky said the more he tells his story, the more he hears of similar incidents from neighbors. One neighbor on Recuerdo Drive in Del Mar unfortunately lost their puppy to a coyote a couple weeks ago.

“I feel like with all of the development all over Carmel Valley, coyotes are getting pushed out of their habitats,” Chinowsky said. “We’re in a ridiculous position, we’ve gotten rid of their habitats and in order to live, they’re living off our pets. We’ve lived in the Del Mar area since 2004 and we never saw a coyote. Now it seems like we’re seeing them more and more and they’re more aggressive.”

Dan DeSousa, a certified animal welfare administrator in San Diego County’s Department of Animal Services, said there are a couple of different reasons why a community may be seeing more coyotes in the area.

“First and foremost, there may just be more of them. As predators, coyote populations tend to mimic the populations of their prey species. So more rabbits in the area equals a larger food source for the coyotes which can cause an increase in the litter size for a coyote or even a smaller territory for a specific coyote, thus allowing another coyote to move closer,” DeSousa said. “The coyotes may also be losing their fear of people and are thus more visible to the community. We are making it too easy for coyotes to coexist with us and thus they are associating more and more in residential areas rather than the canyons where they should be found.

“Despite the cartoons depicting Wile E. Coyote as a bumbling buffoon, coyotes are actually very smart and have been in Southern California long before it was even called Southern California. They have learned to co-exist with us and we, as the smarter of the two species, need to learn how to co-exist with them or push them back into the canyons and open space where they belong,” DeSousa said. “When I said that we have made it too easy for the coyotes, we have. We leave dog food and cat food outside overnight, which draws in not only cats and dogs but also skunks, rats, opossums and coyotes. After all, why should a coyote try to chase down a rabbit when it has a bowl of food left out for it every night? They are also very adept at getting into our trash cans and even eating fallen fruit from trees. Unfortunately, when they are in a person’s yard or even loose in the neighborhood, they will attack people’s pets. Again, because it is easier for them to do so.”

At their homes, DeSousa advises people to pick up their pet food and any fallen or low hanging fruit and clear their shrubs and hedges to remove hiding places.

Another option for homeowners is a coyote roller. A coyote roller is a 4-foot, aluminum extruded ribbed roller designed to prevent animals from getting the foothold they need to climb over a fence. It is simple, safe, humane, requires no power source and constructed to last a lifetime. Learn more at

To make it less easy for the coyotes to co-exist and live in residential neighborhoods, DeSousa said people need to haze the coyotes. Hazing is a way to reinstill the natural fear of humans in the coyote. Using a different variety of hazing tools is critical so coyotes don’t get used to redundant or single sounds and actions. Some methods of hazing include:

<bullet>Yelling and waving your arms, making yourself as big as possible.

<bullet>Using noisemakers like whistles, air horns, bells, or homemade shaker cans full of marbles or coins

<bullet> Using projectiles such as sticks, small rocks or tennis balls

The simplest method of hazing a coyote is standing tall and waving your arms and yelling at the coyote. If the coyote has not been hazed before, he may not immediately run away when you yell at him. If this happens, you may need to walk toward the coyote and increase the intensity of your hazing.

As DeSousa said, it’s important that people supervise their pets at all times. Use a leash as often as possible and when walking your dog, carry your hazing noisemakers, squirt guns, pepper spray or sticks and objects to throw toward a coyote.

It’s important to remember to never run away from a coyote. The coyote may not leave at first but if you approach close, he will run away. If the coyote runs away a short distance and then stops and looks at you, continue hazing until he completely leaves the area.

It usually takes one or two times to haze a coyote away for good.

“While many people ask to have the coyote captured and relocated or euthanized, that will not solve the problem until we eliminate the reasons that the coyotes are in our neighborhoods in the first place,” DeSousa said. “Removing one coyote only opens that territory up for one or more coyotes to move in.”

In San Diego, some people have taken the extra step of outfitting their dogs with protective Coyote Vests. Dogs look like little punk rockers in vests with spikes and big, colorful “whiskers.”

Coyote Vests were created by Scripps Ranch couple Pamela and Paul Mott after they lost their rescue dog Buffy to a coyote. Paul Mott had been at the park with Buffy and their two other dogs — as he loaded the two dogs in his car, Buffy was behind him in the grass. He heard a yelp and turned to see Buffy in the coyote’s mouth, running off with her. She was never seen again.

“It was horrible to lose what we considered a family member. We couldn’t really enjoy our walks anymore,” Pamela Mott said.

Sparky, Cody and Scooter model the Coyote Vest.

As Paul is an engineer, he began doing research and experimenting with a potential prevention tool for dogs. He started with a spiked coyote collar and they sold them on Eventually his design evolved to make a stab-resistant Kevlar vest, with add-ons like rows of spikes, laminated side panels, throat guards, coyote zappers and coyote whiskers, which look like broom bristles or porcupine quills.

“We came up with the whiskers because it would make it very hard for a coyote to get a dog. The whiskers would get in their eye or mouth and deter them from getting ahold of the dog,” Pamela said.

They were careful to ensure that all of their vests and accessories are not too heavy, uncomfortable or hot for the dogs to wear.

“We aren’t out to kill the coyote, we just don’t want our dogs to be snacks for a coyote,” Pamela said.

She has heard feedback from clients that the coyotes seem to be wary of dogs wearing the vests with whiskers and spikes as they are not sure what they are — one customer reported “freaking out” seeing three coyotes in her backyard while the dog was wearing the vest. Thankfully, the coyotes did not attack and the owner was able to run out and get her dog safely inside.

While Pamela has not heard a report of a coyote attacking a dog in a vest, she did hear about dogs in the Coyote Vest being attacked by another aggressive dog. In one such incident in Del Mar, the owner said without the vest, their smaller dog would have been seriously injured.

Since they have started Coyote Vests, Pamela said they have received messages from all over the country, people pouring their hearts out and sharing their stories. Pamela said she tries to respond to every one.

“I feel like I really build a relationship with our customers. They love their fur babies and they want to make sure they’re going to be OK,” Pamela said. “I think of it like a cop who wears a bulletproof vest. It does not protect all of the body or guarantee survival but you’ve covered the target zone. And something is better than nothing. We’ve found the vest works quite well in protecting the dogs.”

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