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Seal Beach Decides Its Coyote-Killing Mobile Gas Chambers Are Kinda Creepy

Coyote (Photo by SKD's LA Street Scenes via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Seal Beach may be slowly coming to its senses about its ill-conceived idea to trap and kill the coyotes who feast on residents' helpless pets.

In September, the city council approved a measure to trap and kill coyotes, despite scientists' warnings that the plan wouldn't actually make a dent in the coyote population and would probably only succeed in killing dumb, slow coyotes. The Gazette reports the city received 15,000 letters about the decision. But residents were fired up and ready to avenge 60 pet attacks, so the city went ahead and hired a company called Critter Busters to take care of their coyote problem, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But the city backtracked once word got out about how critters are busted: the company traps coyotes and asphyxiates them in a mobile gas chamber filled with carbon dioxide. Four coyotes were euthanized this way before there was an outcry. This method is cheaper than lethal injection but residents were none too pleased to hear about it.

Mike Levitt, a Seal Beach city councilman, told the Times, "When Critter Busters told us that it used gas to dispatch coyotes, I assumed it meant the animals were put to sleep. So I voted to approve the contract. I found out [afterward] that the animal does not go to sleep. There are spasms. They choke."

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Now the city is trying to come up with a plan for dealing with the population of coyotes whose goal isn't eradication but co-existence. A coyote that attacks a human (which is rare) might be euthanized, but otherwise the best approach might be to train residents to "haze" coyotes, which means scaring them away with shouts, whistles and bright lights. Residents would also be discouraged from leaving out food or creating any sort of shelter for coyotes.

The city tells The Gazette it's still reserving the right to trap coyotes, however, and is taking suggestions on where to put traps from residents for a pilot program. Seal Beach Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos (no relation) tells the paper he's not counting on trapping doing a whole lot: "Either way, this (trapping) isn’t the be-all-end-all solution to the coyote problem. Does trapping work in the short term? Yes, it sometimes does. But long term, the coyotes will come back. We need to come up with solutions together."