Mayor votes against trapper hiring in lone dissent
Story by Daniel Garay
Photos by Terry Miller
A three hour showdown took place in Arcadia City Council chambers on the night of Feb. 21 as the Council was ready to choose a trapper to begin coyote population control measures. It was a Pyrrhic victory for coyote advocates, as one vote swayed, but the policy remained.
The resulting vote: 4-1, with Mayor Tom Beck dissenting.
Residents from as far as the High Desert, Los Angeles, and elsewhere came to make their voices heard. Protesters arrived at 6 p.m. and prepared their signs as night set in. With packed council chambers, the meeting began with the contentious measure being moved from the end of the consent calendar to the forefront issue of the night.
The item in question: A contract to Animal Pest Management Services, Inc. not to exceed $15,000. The terms of this agreement allow for trapping of coyotes for the next 8 weeks, with up to four to six strategically-placed, traps per location. Checking of each trap will be done once daily at minimum by the consultant.
Some unfamiliar, but passionate, faces in the crowd who came to the meeting were present at a protest on Feb. 15 in support of groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Project Coyote in front of City Hall. Among the coalition were groups like Pasadena Humane Society and Union Members for the Preservation of Wildlife.
Concerned citizens on both sides of the issue, old and young, voiced their opinions and calls to action. Critics of trapping pointed out that timid and sickly coyotes, who do not see city limits, simply follow the scent of food. One resident professed her self-dubbed irresponsibility for losing a house cat to a hungry coyote.
Visitors to Arcadia voiced threats to boycott the city by not shopping at the Santa Anita Westfield Mall or hiking in Santa Anita Canyon over the trapping.
Residents supportive of the trapping testified to the vicious nature of a “new breed of coyote,” with some fearful of leaving the house or unable to leave their own car at the sight of packs.
Lisa Lange, Vice President of Communications for PETA, cited the Pasadena Humane Society’s efforts on coyotes after disasters like the Station Fire. “You have the best resources … Let them do their work!” Lange said to an applause that broke decorum.
Throughout the night people of different opinions were met by cheers, jeers, and interjections, with Mayor Beck many a time reminding attendees that this was a business meeting.
More than 60 people spoke for an average of two minutes each on the subject by the closing of public comments. Mayor Beck was the first on the Council to speak in an effort to quell simmering tensions in the room. Given the influx of non-Arcadians in the meeting, Mayor Beck said, “We are spending our tax dollars on our own problems,” to the assurance of some residents’ suspicions.
“This is a fear that is genuine,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Amundson who went on to read aloud messages from Arcadia residents.
Council Member Verlato showed a photo of a dog who was recovering from injuries totaling $13,000 in vet bills. Verlato then went on to blast the Pasadena Humane Society on their ability to keep tabs and stats on the coyote population. “They have failed us,” Verlato said in regard to the council’s inability to find hard metrics on the issue, something they should have possessed in a contract between the organization and the city.
Council Member Tay used a coyote whistle, which the city provided for this fiscal year to residents, as his exhibit to the public. “The first time, it works. The second time, they’re not scared.” He had the same words for the Pasadena Humane Society as Verlato’s.
At the time of voting, Mayor Beck described what he saw as a lack of education: people leaving sources of food via unsecured garbage containers and feeding coyotes as they would a pet dog. Along with the concerns of fearful residents, Mayor Beck agreed that there was indeed a vacant housing problem in the city and prescribed an ordinance to gain access to such homes to remove coyotes who make these dwellings their dens. And finally, noting the fact that adjacent cities like Monrovia and Pasadena do not trap coyotes, Beck believed that the void in Arcadia will always be filled by coyotes from the surrounding areas.
Mayor Beck knew his vote would not do much to change the outcome, making it plain to the audience and the Council, but followed through with it. The rest of the City Council voted for the measure which only allows trapping for 8 weeks.