Fountain Valley residents and visitors cannot feed, disturb, or have any contact with wildlife on city property, actions that will be prohibited starting Nov. 5.
The City Council in early October voted unanimously to give final approval to an ordinance in an effort to curb coyote activity, acknowledging the increase in coyotes in the city.
Unless authorized by the city’s director of community services in writing, “no person shall feed, disturb, or have physical contact with wildlife on city property,” according to a city staff report.
The ordinance comes after a coyote attacked a 2-year-old girl in Fountain Valley’s Mile Square Park in June. Fountain Valley has had a coyote management plan in place since April 2017, with one of the three objectives being a ban on interaction with wildlife.
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According to the state’s Department of Fish and Game, there are an estimated 250,000 to 750,000 coyotes in California.
Over five coyote sightings in Fountain Valley have been reported to the University of California coyote tracker in about the past two months.
“The recommendation is to impose a ban on feeding wildlife on city property,” City Attorney Colin Burns said during a September City Council meeting, when the council took an initial vote on the ordinance.
The vote to prohibit wildlife contact was unanimous despite some hesitation regarding how the city would enforce this new ordinance since the decision will ban interaction not just with coyotes but with all wildlife.
Councilmember Ted Bui brought up the many duck ponds located around Orange County that have seen an increase in coyote sightings.
“Let’s say we ban this, but the county doesn’t do their part, it defeats the whole purpose,” said Bui. “They have to creatively cooperate in having the same resolution as us.”
Mile Square Park, where the coyote attack occurred, is run by Orange County Parks, a government agency that oversees the upkeep and maintenance of over 60,000 acres of public park land in the county.
The park features an archery range, over five ballfields, and paid parking, but no signs warning visitors of possible harm from coyotes in the area.
Alexander Heeren, a research scientist at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a phone interview that the best way to keep park visitors safe is through education.
“I think a big step (in enforcing the prohibition of feeding wildlife) is education and outreach,” said Heeren. “A lot of folks in California may not be aware that there are coyotes within our neighborhoods and residential areas. (We should help) inform communities that coyotes are present, they are part of the ecosystem, but we want to make sure that they retain their natural behaviors.”
Fountain Valley City Clerk Rick Miller said in a phone interview that there is no fine system in place and that “it’s more of a ‘don’t do this’ type of ordinance.”
Rather than issuing citations, Miller said that the city is raising awareness of coyotes through community meetings.
“What we have been doing is, through our police department, is having community meetings to keep the public aware of the dangers that coyotes (are) present,” Miller said.