Michael O’Connor posted photos from his video footage of a coyote that scaled his 6-foot fence, then fearlessly leaped down.

Throughout San Diego County, there was an increase in coyote sightings in the last month.

Ramona Facebookers reported coyotes attacked their ducks and chickens. Rabbits near the Tijuana Estuary in Imperial Beach were mauled. My NextDoor neighbor in City Heights warned us on February 4: “In Olivia Canyon, there were at least three coyotes communicating. I’m so glad our kitties are all asleep in our beds — all ‘snoodled in’ nice and cozy. I hope everyone else’s are safely inside as well. Remember, they’re out in the daytime too. Just most active from dusk until dawn. These coyotes sounded like they’re having a coyote meet-up for drinks and looking for dates.”

“This is the time, from January to March when coyotes are having a lot of babies,” Lori Martinez said to me in a phone interview on March 6.

“Coyotes are adapting to living around us humans. The pups are being raised in an environment where they are used to seeing humans a lot more, and they are getting more bold and brave.”

Martinez has lived in Valley Center for 11 years. She owns and runs Two Paws Up, a dog boarding facility on North Lake Wohlford Road by Bates Nut Farm. “The coyotes don’t think, ‘Oh well, that dog and cat live there, and those people in the house love them.’ Instead, coyotes view them as prey if small enough to attack. Coyotes almost killed our dog and did kill three of my cats. I think coyotes nowadays realize that residential areas are an easy place to get food, especially cats.”

On March 6, I spoke with Brian Sodeman, a Valley Center dweller with a master’s in biological science. In the 40 years that he’s lived in San Diego County, he’s noticed an interesting relationship between cats, coyotes, and birds — “where even though coyotes will eat birds given a chance, [ironically,] birds species are more diverse and abundant associated with the presence of coyotes. This is likely attributed to coyotes preying on species that prey heavily on birds, notably house cats. As a result, people will keep their cats inside when coyotes are in the area, which the songbirds appreciate.”

In 2019, the National Park Service did research study of coyote scat (poop) found in the urban area of Los Angeles. The analysis showed that the urban coyotes’ diet consisted of pet cats, which was 19 percent; fruits from ornamental trees, 26 percent; rabbits, 18 percent; human and pet food that were left out, 26 percent; insects, 19 percent; and gophers, 9 percent.

A couple of locals I spoke with who live closer to downtown San Diego attributed the “increase” of prowling coyotes in North Park, Normal Heights, and City Heights, to the “appetizing rat population” brought about by the combination of heavy rains and overflowing trash receptacles in December and January.

“As far as the rats, any increase in resources can contribute to increases in population,” added Sodeman. “They reproduce quickly and are more prolific. In addition to rats, coyotes prey on squirrels, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, and many other small to midsize prey.”

“Thus, coyotes provide benefits to both urban and rural communities by keeping rodent and lagomorph populations in check,” corroborates the Project Coyote site. “City dwellers enjoy cleaner environments (and avoid having to use rat poisons that can impact non-target animals). Ranchers benefit from coyotes controlling micro-herbivores (such as rabbits and gophers) that otherwise compete with their grazing animals for food.” In addition, when coyotes naturally control rodent populations, farmers suffer less crop loss or crop damage. Additionally, because coyotes control rodents, it reduces the spread of rodent-born diseases,

Another benefit of having coyotes is they are scavengers, and they help clean animal carcasses throughout the county.

Martinez continued: “It’s unfortunate, sometimes humans are under the impression that they own the planet, versus living on it with other creatures. And coyotes were here long before us.”

So how do we protect our pets and livestock from coyotes?

“There are solar-powered animal repellers where if the coyotes come up close to the fence, the red lights turn on, and the coyotes think the red lights are the eyes of a predator,” Martinez suggested. “There is urine spray. Coyotes are territorial, so if you can claim territory around your yard, through scent, that should also work.”

As adults, coyotes — part of the dog family and weigh between 22 and 25 pounds — can scale fences quickly. Martinez’s neighbor, Michael O’Connor, posted photos from his video footage of a coyote that scaled his six-foot fence, then fearlessly leaped down.

So to prevent her dogs from escaping their facility and hinder coyotes and other predators from coming in, Martinez installed double coyote fencing, which juts out at about a 45-degree angle by the top of the fences. “In my opinion, it is not a very expensive thing to do: you buy the extension poles, you can buy them bent, or bend them yourselves. Then, you attach them. It’s a straightforward way to extend the fence and make your backyard more secure.”

Lynsey White of the Humane Society of the United States, noted, “Seeing a coyote out during the day is not a cause for alarm, especially in the spring and summer when they’re looking for food for their pups.”

The humane society’s website continues, “If a coyote displays no fear of people, he’s probably been fed. You can re-instill his fear by raising your arms and yelling to drive him away. This is called hazing.”