Dog owners warn of Elysian Park coyote attacks

By Amanda Schallert

Coyote roaming Dodger Stadium property | Photo courtesy Bettina Moss

Rhea Harding and her 100-pound Mastiff Boxer were in Elysian Park for an early morning walk when a coyote came up from behind them, biting her dog and leading him off the trail in a chase. She ran after her dog, named Diesel, whom she found surrounded by four coyotes. “I tried to remember everything I could from the National Geographic channel,” she said. “I tried to make myself as big as possible and started to growl and throw things at the coyotes.”

Harding and Diesel eventually walked away from the pack, which followed them for several minutes near a recreation center off Academy Road. She then took her pet to a vet after discovering that he had been wounded during the attack that took place two months ago.

Diesel is one of several large dogs that have reportedly been attacked by coyotes or other wildlife in Elysian Park in recent months. While small dog and cat owners usually have the most to fear from coyotes, the attacks now have some big dog owners concerned about their animals’ safety as well.

The coyote vs dog encounters have taken place in or near Elysian Park, where long and relatively uncrowded hillside trails are a popular place for dog owners to walk their pets. But the park’s more than 600, mostly undeveloped  acres next to Dodger Stadium are also home to many coyotes. In addition to the attack on Harding’s dog in Elysian Park, residents have also spoken about incidents involving a German Shepherd, a Rhodesian Ridgeback and two yellow Labradors. However, the Eastsider could only confirm the attacks on one of the yellow Labradors and on the Rhodesian Ridgeback with the dogs’ owners.

eastside animals button smallMore than a month ago, the owners of a large Rhodesian Ridgeback said their dog bolted off in the evening after their garage door opened, chasing some type of animal near the park. One of the owners heard a squeal and then saw the dog running back. The dog had cuts and had to get about 20 stitches after the encounter, the owners said.

They added that they were not sure if coyotes had attacked their dog or if it was another type of animal, but they were surprised because their dog weighs more than 100 pounds.

Another dog owner and Elysian Heights resident said coyotes attacked his yellow Labrador, who weighs about 80 pounds, while they were walking around 6:30 a.m. on a trail in the northwest corner of Elysian Park near a water tank. He said that the dog went out of sight around a corner, and then he heard loud barking ahead of him. He then ran after the dog and found him surrounded by three coyotes, two of them attacking his back legs and one attacking near the dog’s face and throat.

Elysian Park trails are popular with dog owners and their pets | Mary-Austin Klein

Hoang Dinh, a Los Angeles wildlife officer with the city’s Department of Animal Services, said that his office usually receives reports of attacks on dogs who weigh about 20 pounds or less, and that coyotes do not normally attack larger dogs.

Dinh added that the city’s wildlife office has not seen an increase in the attacks reported on dogs recently, though there have been some more sightings and encounters. Dinh said that the attacks mentioned in this article were not reported to his office.

Some Elysian Heights residents said they think California’s drought may have contributed to the coyote sightings. It’s been about seven months since Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the drought, and a dry summer could cause more encounters with wild animals, according to a Los Angeles Animal Services press release.

Dinh recommends that dog walkers wear bright colors, keep their dogs on leashes and carry whistles, air horns and umbrellas with them to make themselves look bigger during the attack. He added that individuals should always yell instead of scream frighteningly in an encounter and should not run away from wild animals.

Harding said she harbors “no hard feelings” toward the coyotes despite the attack on her dog. “They’ve been here before anybody decided to have any houses up there,” she said. “They can live in peace. We just have to be smart about when we choose to walk our animals.”

Anyone who wants to report unusual wildlife behavior or a non-emergency wildlife encounter can contact Dinh at 323-225-9453 or hoang.dinh@lacity.org.

Amanda Schallert is a fourth-year UCLA student and the news editor at the Daily Bruin.

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  1. Put your damn dogs on a leash and they won’t get eaten.

    • AMEN. Keep your dogs on a leash so they’re safe… and so runners and other people are safe from your dogs.

    • I agree with all these people about leashing their animals. It is an undeniable fact that you will have more control over your animal if it is leashed, in addition to training it to obey you. I love dogs but I honestly don’t want to have to make allowances for other people’s off leash dogs. Just yesterday a lady with a large, unleashed dog in Elysian Park asked me to pick up my small dog so her dog wouldn’t attack (come up and try to play roughly in her words.) It’s not anyone’s responsibility but the owner’s to control the dog. The other thing about all these off leash dogs is that they crap everywhere and you see the owners up ahead of them just not “seeing” that their dog took a dump, and therefore not picking it up. We have always had coyotes here in Echo Park and people need to be more aware of that, it is their land too, and don’t let their dogs run wild in the park, or even in their back yards at night.

  2. Hey Eastsider, I would love for you to add a safety note to this: “Never let your dog chase a coyote”, is what was left out of this article. A lone coyote will always run back to a pack where their motive is to kill your animal as a team. that’s how they work and survive. And they have always been in Elysian Park, this is not new. Little dogs ,they will grab and run off with, large dogs they make chase, so they can take them out together.

  3. Exactly. Use a leash. I’m sorry to hear about any harm to these dogs but wish owners like these would stop putting their dogs and mine at risk.

  4. How much you want to bet the dog wasn’t on a leash? And please stop using the word “attack”. These aren’t premeditated actions taken by the coyotes. It’s natural. No different than you going out to get a taco. They’re simply hungry and sadly your UNLEASHED dog that gets lead off to the hiding pack can become their food. Is it that hard to LEASH your dog during what everyone knows are essentially coyote times (early morning/evening)? Did I mention LEASHES? LEASH. Oh yeah and one more thing, LEASHES.

    • Harding’s dog was leashed at the time of the attack.

      • Sorry eastsider but I gotta call BS on this one. If her dog were leashed, she would have been “pulled into the woods behind her dog” not “ran after her dog after it had been led off the trail”.

        There is no way that this scenario happened (based on the way it is reported) while the dog was leashed.

        • A leash can easily be pulled out of ones hands by the force of a large dog. Now, perhaps the leash wasn’t wrapped around her wrist a few times. But if she was just holding it – YES – it could easily have been pulled from her.

          • The way it is reported stating “leading him off the trail” doesn’t sound like the leashed dog struggled from it’s owner, at all. Additionally, coyotes are unlikely to come within 6 feet (the length of a leash) of a human. But nice try, Mark. You must be one of these off-leash offenders to be in such defense.

          • Nice try, robit – I’m a cat person. (Indoor only, thank you.)

        • Robit, you must be the woman I saw in the park recently, with three, tiny, unleashed dogs running up ahead of her/you on the trail. When I told her/you that the coyotes were out and hungry this year, she/you got into a big huff, sneered and told me that she/you had lived here for 16 years and didn’t need to listen to me. OK, fine.
          If you’re not her, you certainly sound like her. I have had coyotes hiding in my yard and stalking my animals so I know that the danger is real. P.S. I’m not anti coyotes. I just don’t want them eating anybody I know. or have passed in the park

  5. In all three of these stories, the dogs ran off and the incident was not reported to the city. Sounds like they were off-leash. There are designated off-leash dog park areas in LA, but Elysian Park is not an off-leash area and for many good reasons besides coyotes. Off-leash dogs have caused many different kinds of accidents and incidents involving other dogs, farm animals, police horses, children, pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists. It is illegal to take your dog off-leash in Elysian Park and in most parts of LA. I run, bike, and walk my leashed dog through Elysian Park every day and it is infuriating to see the number of irresponsible dog owners putting their own dog and others in danger of an easily preventable situation. Your dog might be the sweetest, nicest, best behaved dog in the world, but there are other dogs/animals/kids/people who aren’t so well-behaved and you are asking for trouble in the form of a serious injury to your dog or a major lawsuit on your hands. Responsible dog owners need to put pressure on other dog owners and on the park rangers to step up enforcement and start issuing citations.

  6. victoria rhea harding

    like i said in the article, i harbor no ill feelings towards the coyotes – they were here long before we decided to build houses. i’m a strong proponent of wildlife. we were just at the wrong place, wrong time. it was May, and there lots of prey animals around. i also told the reporter that the reason i think Diesel was attacked was because the coyotes saw him as a large predator and a threat to their food source. my dog was on a leash, he was relieving himself on a tree behind the basketball court, not deep inside a trail. the coyote scout nipped him and he turned and bolted. i told the reporter that i dropped my leash as he bolted so as not to be dragged. i do not walk my dog off leash on any of the trails. i am a frequent walker in my Solano Canyon neighborhood and anyone who’s seen my dog will tell you that he is always on a leash. unless you have been put in that kind of situation, you cannot tell me how you would react. i have nothing to hide and i’d be more than happy to have you meet me and my dog on the trail.

  7. I have a 90 lb dog that I run with most mornings in Griffith Park, South Pasadena Arroyo Trail and Elysian Park. I run with her ON LEASH. We have been stalked by coyotes multiple times this summer in all three parks. It is getting worse. The coyotes are very bold and seem to disregard my yelling and throwing things. I have started to carry pepper spray. Rhea very likely had her dog on leash but if your dog is attacked its best to try to let it defend itself and a 100 lb dog is going to bolt. She may not have been able to hold the leash during the scuffle.

  8. I live on Coronado Terrace (right on the border of EP and Silverlake) and last week witnessed a coyote roaming the sidewalk in front of my home… at 12:30 PM. I’ve never heard of coyotes being out like that in the middle of the day., and several days later, I woke to find body parts of a cat strewn about my front yard and several of my neighbor’s yards. Horrifying…

    I would not be surprised at all if this increase in coyote activity is connected with the drought.

  9. The point of Amanda’s well written piece was to inform dog walkers that there is new behavior being exhibited by coyotes towards larger dogs. It is of concern to all dog walkers/owners AND should also be a concern to others using the park. If coyotes are so bold (clearly desperate) as to go for larger prey then what’s to say they might not try going after a runner? I have seen MANY runners on the trail around dusk – ear plugs in, some are small women. Whose to say a pack of starving coyotes won’t see that as an opportunity?

    Also, it’s tiring to see the usual blather about leashing the dogs. Get over it. This is the way people walk their dogs in this park. Save your boring tirades for whatever else you feel like griping about (I’m sure you complainers all have plenty of more waaa waaa waaa up your sleeves). The article is written to raise awareness for all who use the park about this change in coyote behavior not to provide you with a soapbox for dumping on dog owners.

    • Bravo, Miss Bettina, well said!

    • Thanks , great point

    • Ok Bettina, If you would like to live in that world where laws don’t matter, here is what I will start doing. My dog, who is leashed and restrained, will be allowed to eat those little f++king unleashed dogs that come up and start yapping at him. You see, I will be at ZERO fault while you will be at 100% fault because my dog is leashed. I’ll say… GET OVER IT!!!!!

      When I’m running and the unleashed dogs come up to me, instead of stopping or tripping to get around them I’m going to step right on the head. Hopefully the owners will understand when I say… GET OVER IT!!!

      The leash law is to protect everyone. Go ahead and take your risks, I’ve gotten over mine.

      • So violent! Take a Xanax or something.

      • Wow! What a stinky a-hole you are! Alright, it’s time for you to move back to the west side. Where everyone is obsessed with controlling everyone else’s behavior and if one can’t change the behavior they go to big daddy aka the Govt, and whine and complain until all who offend the offended are punished. The eastsider has always been about living and let live. Not control and punishment. Hey, isn’t it time for you to hit the streets in protest over oversized bottles of Coca-cola?

    • Bettina,

      First, thanks for responding. Secondly I think your comments are a bit misguided. While the person that posted rather emotionally could have made their point differently they are pretty spot on and have every right to be that emotional when their (and their dog’s) safety is concerned.

      Keeping your dogs on leash is A LAW. Look it up and there are signs posted all over the park with the ordinance number to help you.

      We have younger dogs that are still learning to be social and to have some idiot leave their massive pit bull off leash and to see it charge up to us is terrifying to say the least. All this while the owner is 50-100 yards up the path.

      Walk your dogs whatever way you want, but it had better be well trained that it doesn’t leave your side when something happens. If not, keep it on a leash–it’s the LAW.

    • Ill kick your damn dog if comes up to me not on a leash…just so everyone who thinks its ok to not keep them on one…Ive been attacked by a dog and Im still very much scared of dogs so my knee jerk reaction is I see a dog coming, Im gonna bash the shit out of it till its dead…and theres nothing you can do about it because you can’t control your dog if its not on a leash. You dont like the law, move to another country.

  10. Spent a lovely day in San Francisco recently. I went to Alamo Square park, which had both on and off leash areas. Everyone seemed to get along just fine. With parks as large as Elysian, Griffith and the Arroyo Seco, why can’t we have both?

    • I very rarely let my dog off-leash (she likes to stay close anyway). I’ve seen difficult situations come up, though, with off-leash dogs, e.g. when they meet horses.

      I think the reason there is no “official off-leash area” in these large parks you mention is that the status quo (cops mostly turning the other way) generally works, and nobody wants to mess with it. There’s enough space for both styles of walking, I think. There are some places where people let large dogs off-leash, and others where they don’t, and people mostly self-select.

      I prefer this live-and-let live approach to the San Francisco “let’s make a rule and put up signs” approach.

      That’s why, incidentally, I didn’t campaign for an official designated dog park in Eagle Rock, even though I like dogs and I like parks ;-).

    • @eastsidearts
      The reason there are leash laws in place: 1) Dogs are unpredictable. The dog that has been docile his entire life can snap given the right condition. 2) On-leash dogs may be unpredictable. My dog is fine around ‘most’ dogs, sometimes off-leash dogs approach and because he feels threatened he snaps. This leaves me with the responsibility of not only protecting my dog, but now protecting the off-leash dogs too. 3) People walking their dogs off leash often do so to avoid the responsibility of picking up after their dog conveniently leaving the mess for others to step in and/or smell.

      Dog parks are the place we have designated for dogs to be off-leash. One attending a dog park knows exactly what to expect and can assess whether that situation is right for their dog. Making a public park into an off-leash dog park strips away an expectation of safety. That is WHY we have the leash law in place.

      To put it another way. Why do we have speed limits, stop signs or any rules governing driving?

      • … and as you know, everybody obeys the speed limit ALL the time.

        Let’s be real: Most of us bend some laws some of the time.

        • Yes. And there are consequences that go along with those “bends”. On the street you may get a ticket or crash your car or die. In the park you may get a ticket, your dog may get bitten or die.

          Thanks capt’n obvious.

      • There are not enough dog parks. Elysian is big enough for both on and off leash areas.

        • Can all you pro no leash folk explain your rational? I too have a dog who unfortunately gets nervous around other dogs, enough to sometimes snip at other dog thus leading to possibility of bigger incidents. I feel like I can’t take her to the park bc there’s always a dog off leash that runs up to us and now I have a young child so dealing with a dog fight would be very troubling. Maybe if I understood the reasons behind off leash dogs in non dog park areas I’d be more sympathetic but currently it just seems selfish.

          • I understand your concern, that’s why I am proposing that in these large parks there are designated off leash areas. Such areas would be marked and therefore those who are uncomfortable could stay in the on leash areas. Griffith and Elysian are huge parks, big enough for a mountain lion to live in. Are you aware that in the city of LA there are only 9 dog parks?

      • Hey, Red Car….look over there! Someone is legally smoking a disgusting cigarette. Go over and read them the riot act! Then, call the Santa Monica city council and vent your concerns and tell them how offended you are. Ask for laws to banish it. Because you’re offended. And then after that, take up a hobby, get into an activity such as swimming. But stop being the internet troll that consumes your life at this time. Seriously!

        • You can try as hard as you want to make me out to be a stick in the mud but the facts are all the same. Your unleashed dog is illegal for a reason and if you read the rest of the comments you will see that I am not alone.

          It is nice to see that you would have anyone “move away” rather than work out a solution. Very neighborly. By the way, I grew up here and I’m not going anywhere. But what I WILL start doing is petition the council to start policing the park. At $180.00 (yeah that’s right, $180.00) a pop, I’m sure their will be very little convincing needed to motivate this broke city. So, congratulations! You’ve pissed off the wrong person. See you in the park!!

          • Hey RCN, why not push for something else? I understand your concern, that’s why I am proposing that in these large parks there are designated off leash areas. Such areas would be marked and therefore those who are uncomfortable could stay in the on leash areas. Griffith and Elysian are huge parks, big enough for a mountain lion to live in. Are you aware that in the city of LA there are only 9 dog parks?

          • And you seem like such a lovely and happy person.

          • @eastsidearts
            I’m all for designated areas for off-leash dogs. Good luck with getting that implemented. Until then, let’s keep poochie leached.

            I am quite happy and very very lovely. Thanks for noticing!

  11. A few years ago, in Griffith Park, I witnessed three large unleashed dogs chase down, maul, chase down some more, and seriously maul a young coyote to virtual death. When myself and several joggers pulled the domestic dogs off of the coyote, it lay completely still as if dead but still breathing(?). Several of us stood, poked, stared, and eventually walked away to report it to the park workers and rangers. The next day I asked them what they had done to the coyote and the worker said that when they and a ranger got there the coyote was gone(?!). Playing dead is not something I ever saw coyotes do on NGC but I saw it in Griffith Park. Btw, for the dog that I have firmly in control, off-leash. For the dog that still bolts at squirrels and coyotes, on-leash. If you know and can handle your dogs, there is room for both.

  12. I find it funny that everyone is here busy arguing with one another while we should all by laughing at the idea of hiking with umbrellas.

  13. Personally, I find walking my dog off-leash in Elysian Park much safer than taking her to the Silverlake Dog Park. I have a socialized, well-trained, happy dog who is nonetheless routinely terrorized by the unrestrained pack behavior of many of the dogs at the Dog Park. I’m a bit resentful of those who insist that any dog being walked in Elysian is automatically unpredictable and poorly behaved, and thus must be leashed, but who see no harm in letting the same dogs run amok in the dog park. Plus, there is poop all over the place there. In Elysian Park, my dog runs free, but is trained to stay close to me, and I never allow her to approach a leashed dog without its owner’s permission. I attentively pick up my dog’s poop (as well as an additional pile or two left by others.) I’m saying this not to brag about being a a good citizen OR a scofflaw, just to advocate using common sense. No matter where you exercise your dog, leashed or not, show some personal responsibility. Train your dog or keep it leashed, respect other people’s space, and clean up after yourselves. Kind of like taking little kids to a restaurant, no?

  14. David Bad3-Valve-'Stang

    Hi, amen to those who say leash your dogs. I live on Park Drive, and too many pea-brained and or arrogant dog owners one or more dogs sans leash. One particular “buttwipe” down the street from me used to walk his huge dog unleashed and that caused a hazard to me late and then very elderly and frail mother. He didn’t appear to give much of a rat’s ass about that…

    Also, there is one individual on Park Drive known to walk three big labs…two of which are unleashed and allowed to defecate anywhere they please. So as Gracie Slick sung years and years ago, “you get what you give…” Please leash and clean up after your dogs.

    By the way, one individual on my street is alleged to have dispatched a sick and large coyote in his yard with one shot, one humane shot, with a hand loaded .222 round out of a small carbine rifle with a 3×9 Leupold Scope. This was told to me, it may just be urban legend, who knows. But coyotes are neat wild animals and should not be fed nor domesticated…and keep all food away from them. Dog owners DO NOT have special privileges to use streets and Elysian Park, but too many act as if they do. LEASH YOUR MUTT!!!

  15. I live on Park Drive. Therefore, I have seen a lot of dogwalking. Firstly, please leash your dog(s)….it is that simple; larger dogs unleashed have chased my late and frail mother when off leash and one came onto my porch and chased my cat up a tree.

    Please leash your dog! This is for safety of all concerned IMO in an urban area. Pick up after your dog; don’t deposit the poop in my trash can ’cause I am not your custodial service nor do I wish to have the stench with me until the next trash day. Take it home with you…YOU opted to own a dog, take care of your dog as you would an infant…you don’t throw dirty diapers into somebody else’s trash can do you?

    Coyotes: Great animals, cool, a symbol of the West. Long Live the Coyote. Just don’t feed this canine “Trickster” and ignore him. (The) coyote is one animal that does better with the encroachment of man ’cause this canine is damn smart! El Lobo is the original smaller wolf/dog that is classic in design; design due to evolution, come to think of it.

  16. Oh, by the way, Bettina, I think you are a great neighbor. However, a dog bite is not “boring” nor would my tirade if bitten by an unleashed and unprovoked dog would hardly be boring or non-colorful! Some individuals are also large dog phobic and may have weapon(s) on their person.

    So for the safety of the dog, be he or she large or small, and for other pets, be they large or small, and for individuals who have varied responses to canines, please consider the advantages of having dogs on leash.

    And I agree with you re. your implicit view that an over-abundance of laws and rules may be due to a Westside “Weltanschauung”…which includes seeing “New Age” food and overpriced bottled water, water that belongs in the water table in the Sierras…but oh well…they are the ones that seem to act entitled…

  17. The joy of watching a dog romp, frolic, or eagerly explore all of the smells of their surroundings off-leash is irresistible. Whenever possible, I try and treat my dogs to the feeling of freedom. I always walk one off-leash. She only bolts after squirrels and stays close whenever we encounter coyotes. The other is a bit more rambunctious and only experiences occasional freedom in isolated green spaces that I can easily monitor. Otherwise, he will and has bolted after coyotes including a healthy 30lbr about a month ago that he got close enough to nip in the tail. If I hadn’t been chasing right behind him yelling there’s no telling what that coyote would’ve done instead of run away from the both of us.

  18. Honestly I just wish I could put in some hits with the Coyotes to take out the 3 billion dogs that bark 24-7 by Effie and Lake Shore. Where are the owners and why are you letting your dogs go nuts like this? It’s completely out of control. Could there be a maximum allowance on how many dogs are allowed in an area? I dream of it.

  19. Hey I love to have my doggies off leash . Yes It’s my choice . If any one wants me to have my doggies on leash , why don’t you put your wife on a leash ! Stop with all your BS IT’s LA not NYC

  20. This has turned into a leashed vs unleashed troll hole.

  21. The reason LA Department of Animal Services hasn’t received reports of attacks is because they have refused to take effective steps to deal with this increasing public safety problem.. Basically, they have declared that the entire burden for dealing with threatening, habituated calls falls upon citizens, not their trained officers. While it’s fine to tell us not to feed the animals, to watch our kids and pets, etc., they have stubbornly refused to do what other communities around the country have done: use tools like paint ball and pellet guns to “haze” the animals in a fashion that won’t hurt them, but will leave them with an indelible memory of the encounter with humans. Instead, Animal Services seems to take the position that any touching of a coyote that the animal finds disagreeable is off limits.
    This is not responsible service to the public.

  22. Another problem is those people who trap and release feral cats. These people leave food and water bowls out to attract the feral cats and are now attracting the coyotes into our neighborhood. Now the coyots know there is more food besides just our pets. Half of our neighbor didn’t even know that this trapping was going on. I don’t even know if these people have permits to TNR . I know my cats have been TNR (trapped,neutered,released) because they snipped there ears. I have seen more and more coyots this year than last year. I just lost my 13 year old cat to one of them.

  23. This story sounds like more yipster bullshit. Coyotes have been here for thousands of years, yipsters and hipsters are recent arrivals and suddenly ‘yotes are the problem?

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