Why Are Coyote Encounters so Common near Woodland Hills?

A coyote was spotted on the Taft campus near the fences separating Del Moreno St. and R Building.

Michael Hess

A coyote was spotted on the Taft campus near the fences separating Del Moreno St. and R Building.

Oscar Garcia arrived at school in the morning of March 13th and walked to his first period class. While walking to the classroom, Oscar heard a PA announcement stating that school was going on lockdown. One of the administrators ushered him and other students into the gym since it was the closest building.

Oscar and the students were left in the gym for 30 minutes without further explanation on the situation. By the time he was permitted to leave, he already missed half of the period costing him and many others valuable educational time.

On Monday, March 13th, Ms. Pease, Mr. Graham, and Mr. Hess spotted a coyote near the “R” building on Taft Campus at approximately 8:30 in the morning. They called Taft admin and a lock-down was quickly ordered. Students near “R” Building were quickly sent inside and students walking on the service road towards their classrooms in the “R” building were quickly directed to the gym to ensure their safety. Staff members waited inside until the coyote was taken off campus.

After half an hour, students were notified that they could return to their classrooms. The incident was inconvenient for teachers since several students arrived late to class during their lessons.

This was not the first time that a coyote was spotted on campus. In the past few years, there have been a few sightings of coyotes in different parts of our campus. These incidents can be disruptive for schools as they put students on a temporary lockdown until the situation is resolved.

The reason why the coyote came into the school is unknown, however, Ms. Pease noted that the coyote seemed playful. The coyote may have likely been looking for small prey, like squirrels, as it was seen near the trees. The Taft campus, especially R Building, is home to various wildlife such as rabbits, lizards, squirrels, and mice.

Mr. Hess speculated that the coyote entered the campus through the football field and trapped itself in the school. Oscar Garcia was informed that the coyote was contained in the field despite ongoing construction.

Ms. Yu, the vice principal, explained, “The staff members follow the protocol Shelter-In-Place in which everyone is sheltered inside until the animal leaves the property. Otherwise, Animal Control is called to remove it from campus.”

When asked about how often the sightings are on campus, Ms. Yu said that the encounters on campus are rare. There have only been two sightings in the last two years.

“It happens once a year so we don’t really have any plans to prevent future coyote encounters.” Ms. Yu added.

Although the coyotes do not appear on campus frequently, they are still spotted locally at a higher rate than nearby cities.

Coyotes look very similar to wolves but are typically smaller in size. Their diet consists of small animals, bugs, and food. They do not prey on humans and are usually fearful of us. Despite this, coyotes can still prove potentially dangerous. Coyotes will attack small dogs, and may go after larger dogs when in a pack. Coyotes accustomed to humans will be more likely to attack during an encounter. Coyotes may carry many diseases and are listed as one of the most common wild animals to have rabies.

Taft High School is located in Woodland Hills, against the Santa Maria Mountains, an area known for its frequent coyote sightings and a recent attack on a toddler. According to the LA Times reporting, eight coyote sightings and a pet were killed in 2022. The Coyote Catcher website also indicates that the area surrounding Taft is susceptible to more coyote encounters than other areas.

Coyotes typically thrive in forest and desert areas, however, coyotes are able to adapt to various environments including urban areas like Woodland Hills.

Throughout January to March, coyotes are more active since it’s their mating season. Taft and the local areas have more reports on coyotes during this time of year. Coyotes are also active during fall and winter when the young begin dispersing from their families.

In the event that one encounters a coyote, it is important to not immediately run as this may trigger the coyote’s instinct to chase. Instead, make loud noises and try to appear bigger to scare the coyote. Throwing objects at the coyote is also an effective way to scare off the animal.

Pet owners should take caution when leaving their pets outside. Supervision is advised when a coyote sighting is reported in your neighborhood. Owners should also keep their yard well-lit at night and regularly clean up their pet’s feces to not attract coyotes. On walks, owners should use a leash and avoid any contact with coyotes. Coyotes usually won’t attack if your pet is near you.