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Some Wildlife in Los Angeles County

Coyote, Griffith Park

A coyote trips a motion-triggered camera in Griffith Park in 2015. Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service via Flickr.


In the early 2000s, it was estimated that more than 5,000 coyotes roamed the city of Los Angeles and thousands more lived throughout the rest of the county. With a 2016 California Department of Fish and Wildlife estimate of 250,000 to 750,000 coyotes throughout California and the apparent success of the animal in Southern California, that number is probably much larger today. Mostly, these animals live in hills in and around our communities. These include the the southern foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Montebello and Whittier hills, the Verdugo Mountains, San Rafael Hills and Santa Monica and Sierra Pelona Mountains. Coyotes have also been active, among other places, in the Dominguez Hills area, Manhattan Beach, Baldwin Hills and Culver City, Griffith Park, Pacific Palisades, Westwood and Whittier. When not in or near hills, coyotes are known to travel along the county's network of washes.

Coyotes are highly intelligent, master adaptors and possess excellent sensory abilities. Urbanized coyotes can survive on a variety of foods including garbage, feedings by people, food left out for pets and small pets themselves. A 2019 study by the National Park Service, after collecting coyote scat over two and a half years, found remains in specimens of work gloves, rubber bands, condoms and even a piece of computer keyboard. Another researcher found remains of baseballs, shoes, pieces of furniture and bedazzled jewels in stomach contents of coyotes killed on roads. Apparently, ornamental fruit, found in many private yards, is a significant attraction to coyotes (including fruit from palm trees). This fruit makes up about 25 percent of an urban coyote's diet. The abundance of fruit, in turn, brings coyotes in contact with their next large source of food: small pets. Cats were found to make up as much as 20 percent of the diet of urban coyotes in the Los Angeles area (a "high-cat diet," as described by reporter Katherine Gammon in The Guardian). Several decades ago, the Los Angeles Zoo even had to deal with coyotes feeding on zoo exhibits. In 1987, coyotes attacked and killed 53 flamingoes at the Los Angeles Zoo. They also victimized penguins. In 1995, coyotes managed to kill flamingoes again, as well as a two-year-old Andean Condor. The zoo followed that incident with the installation of a six and a half-mile perimeter fence surrounding their facility.

Coyotes are tolerant of human activities and quick to adapt and adjust to changes in their environment. They tend to lose their natural aversion to people when competition for food increases among coyotes. The biggest problems occur when people feed coyotes - either wittingly or unwittingly (such as leaving pet food outdoors). Although coyote attacks, when they occur, are commonly directed against small animals and pets, coyotes have attacked humans in very rare incidents. In one study of coyote attacks between 1978 and 2003, there were 37 reported attacks on humans in Los Angeles County:

Coyote Attacks, Los Angeles County, 1978-2003

Date Location Incident
May 1978 Pasadena 5-yr-old girl bitten on left leg while in driveway of home.
May 1979 Pasadena 2-yr-old girl attacked by coyote while eating cookies on front porch; grabbed by throat and cheek.
Jun 1979 Pasadena Adult male bitten on heel while picking up newspaper from front yard.
Jul 1979 Pasadena 17-yr-old female's leg lacerated by coyotes when attempting to save dog being attacked.
Jul 1979 Pasadena Coyote bit adult male on legs while jogging; climbed tree to escape.
Aug 1979 La Verne Coyote grabbed 5-yr-old girl and attempted to drag her into bushes. Suffered deep bites on neck, head, and legs before saved by father and a neighbor.
July 1980 Agoura Hills 13-month-old girl grabbed and dragged off by coyote. Suffered puncture wounds to midsection before being saved by mother.
Aug 1981 Glendale 3-yr-old girl killed in front yard by coyote; massive bleeding and broken neck.
Oct 1994 Griffith Park (Los Angeles) Man with no shirt or shoes bitten by coyote (5 PM).
Mar 1995 Griffith Park (Los Angeles) Man with no shirt bitten by coyote (Noon).
Mar 1995 Griffith Park (Los Angeles) Coyote stalked and then knocked down 5-yr-old girl twice; mother rescued child (daytime).
Jun 1995 Griffith Park (Los Angeles) Woman in shorts, barefoot, preparing food, bitten by coyote (daytime).
Jul 1995 Griffith Park (Los Angeles) Man bitten by coyote while sleeping on lawn (2:45 PM).
Jul 1995 Griffith Park (Los Angeles) Man bitten by coyote while sleeping on lawn (4 PM).
Jul 1995 Griffith Park (Los Angeles) Coyote was chased away once; then returned to attack 15-month-old girl; child suffered bites to leg (4 PM).
Sep 1997 Pomona Man was stalked, then attacked by two coyotes, and bitten on ankle (early evening, daylight).
May 1999 Canyon Country Coyote attacked dog in yard, and would not cease attack; man scratched in melee (night).
Nov 1999 Hollywood Hills (Los Angeles) Coyote attacked and killed pet dog in man’s presence; coyote would not leave (morning).
Apr 2001 Pomona 54-year-old woman fought, using an axe handle, with a large coyote that had attacked small poodle in back yard. Received bite on leg, and despite her efforts, the coyote killed the poodle and jumped over fence carrying the carcass (4:30 PM).
Jun 2001 Northridge (Los Angeles) 7-year-old girl attacked and seriously injured by a coyote, despite mother's attempts to fight off the coyote (7 PM).
Aug 2001 Hollywood Hills (Los Angeles) Coyotes bit man 8 times as he was defending his dog against their attack (11:50 PM).
Aug 2001 Chatsworth (Los Angeles) Two coyotes came into yard and took pet cat out of hands of 19-month-old toddler.
Sep 2001 Agoura Woman attacked by coyote when she attempted to stop its attack on her small dog (7:15 AM).
Sep 2001 Lancaster Man walking encountered 4 coyotes, which crouched, circling him, attempting to attack. Fought off with walking stick, hitting one square across the face (Morning).
Nov 2001 La Habra Heights Coyote on golf course ran up to woman, jumped on her back, and bit her on right forearm (daytime).
Dec 2001 San Gabriel Coyote bit 3-year-old girl in head; grabbed her shoulder in an attempt to drag her off; Father chased coyote off (7:30 PM).
May 2002 Los Angeles Coyote attacked man walking his dog.
Jul 2002 Woodland Hills (Los Angeles.) Adult female attacked by coyote, bitten on arm (6 AM)
Jul 2002 Woodland Hills (Los Angeles) Adult male bitten on boot by coyote when he inadvertently came upon it between car and garage.
Jul 2002 Canoga Park (Los Angeles) Woman walking 2 large dogs accosted by 3 coyotes; fell backward and fended coyotes off.
Aug 2002 Mission Hills (Los Angeles) Coyote approached couple walking dog, attempting to snatch dog out of man’s arms; left only after being kicked (4 AM).
Nov 2002 Woodland Hills (Los Angeles) Coyote scaled 6-foot wall into yard, attacked and killed small dog in presence of owner; in melee, woman kicked coyote, then fell and fractured her elbow and was attacked and scratched by coyote (1 PM).
Feb 2003 Lake View Terrace (Los Angeles) Jogger bitten by coyote after jogging past neighborhood coyote feeding station.
May 2003 Woodland Hills (Los Angeles) Coyote acted aggressively toward man after he intervened during its attack on his dog.
May 2003 Woodland Hills (Los Angeles) Coyote came into residence to attack small pet dogs (2 PM).
Jul 2003 Granada Hills (Los Angeles) Boy walking family’s 2 dogs attacked by 3 coyotes; one dog was killed and the other injured; rescued by father.
Nov 2003 Claremont Man and his dog attacked by 3-4 coyotes; he defended himself, hitting several coyotes with his walking stick (8 AM).

Source: Coyote Attacks: An Increasing Suburban Problem, Hopland Research & Extension Center, University of California research paper, March 3, 2004, by Rex O. Baker, Joe R. Bennett, and Craig C. Coolahan

Coyote Attacks in More Recent Years

Coyote attacks on humans did not cease in Los Angeles County after 2003. More recently, in November 2014, a woman in Hollywood reported that her 4-year-old daughter was knocked down by a coyote outside her home. Wildlife officers, however, were unable to locate a coyote and could not verify the attack. During July and August 2016, in Montebello, a 17-year-old girl at Grant Rea Park and a man working nearby underneath his car were bitten by a coyote in separate incidents during daylight hours. Later, a homeless man was attacked by coyotes in the park at night when rummaging through garbage. The park was temporarily closed and wildlife officers and professional hunters came in to end the series of coyotes attacks. In March 2018, a five-year-old boy was bitten by a coyote on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles in the University Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. A day later, police shot and killed the animal. In June 2021, a woman walking her dog in Woodland Hills survived an attack by a pack of 12 coyotes. In April 2022, in Huntington Beach, Orange County - just south of Los Angeles County, a 2-year-old girl playing on the beach, just feet behind distracted adult family members, survived a coyote attack. In December 2022, a single coyote attacked and attempted to drag away a 2-year-old girl from her family's driveway in Woodland Hills. The attack occurred in daylight. The child's father rescued his daughter by chasing the animal off.

Two Coyotes, Griffith Park

Two coyotes trip the same motion-triggered camera in Griffith Park as in the photo at the top of the page. Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service via Flickr.

Keeping Coyotes & Pets Apart

  • Sadly for pets, cats and small dogs make up a significant portion of the diet of urban coyotes. In coyote areas, keep small pets indoors and don’t let them out at night unsupervised. Most coyote attacks occur at night.
  • Obey leash law and don’t let pets roam. Roaming pets are more likely to be hit by cars, attacked by coyotes and poisoned.
  • Report coyote encounters to authorities. Coyote sightings and encounters are mapped by agencies. When sightings increase, authorities may issue community alerts.
  • Coyotes eat a wide variety of food. Pick up pet food left outside and take inside at night to avoid attracting unwanted guests. Remove fallen fruit, especially avocados, from yards, Store trash in containers with tight lids.
  • An enclosed backyard does not provide safety for small dogs unless fencing is sufficiently high. Low fencing allows pets to escape and stray animals to enter the yard. Coyotes can scale low fences looking for food or your pets.
  • Clear brush and dense weeds around the yard which provide shelter for coyotes and the rodents they hunt.
  • If you see a coyote stalking your pet, yell and throw rocks at the coyote (see "If a Coyote Approaches You" below). Take your pet indoors.

Source: Southern California Veterinary Medical Association
Also see: How to Manage Coyotes, by the University of California.


Coyote Approaches Children in Schoolyard
If approached by a coyote while out walking or hiking, DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK AND DO NOT RUN. Make yourself look big and intimidating by standing as tall as possible, opening up your jacket, stomping your feet, raising and waving your arms over your head and yelling. Throw rocks or anything you can quickly grab at the coyote's feet. Slowly back away. When the coyote retreats, do not run after it. It may turn to attack if it feels cornered or unable to escape, especially if it has pups nearby. If you know that coyotes may be in your neighborhood, carry pepper spray or a walking stick that can be used as a weapon. Report any such encounter to the authorities, whether police or animal control. Not only can coyotes harm people and pets, they can also be diseased.

See video: Survive a Coyote Encounter

Regarding coyotes in the Los Angeles area, also visit:

Coyote Cacher (yes, "Cacher") - a University of California project that maps coyote sightings.

The LA Urban Coyote Project - a National Park Service community science project to gain a better understanding of coyotes living in urban areas and provide valuable information to partner agencies and the public.


Female Mountain Lion in Verdugo Mountains with Los Angeles Lights in Background

A female mountain lion in the Verdugo Mountains with lights of Los Angeles in background. Courtesy National Park Service.

By the 1940s, mountain lions were thought to have been eradicated from Los Angeles. Now, naturalists estimate that about 10 to 12 adult and young (non-kitten) mountain lions roam the Santa Monica Mountain range that bisects the city of Los Angeles. In 2004, a mountain lion was first seen prowling Griffith Park (later tagged and designated "P-22"), believed to have arrived there from the Santa Monica Mountains via urban water channels.

These big cats, weighing up to 150 pounds and able to range up to 200 square miles, hunt at night and prey on small game, deer, and, occasionally, unfortunate stray pets. There have been only two recorded mountain lion attacks on humans in Los Angeles County since 1986. In both incidents, however, the fatalities ended up being for the animals themselves (see table at end of this section). Nevertheless, in 2004, a 35-year-old male cyclist in neighboring Orange County was fatally attacked by a mountain lion. In San Diego County, in 1994, a 56-year-old female hiker was killed by a mountain lion. Between 1986 and 2021, there have been only 12 mountain lion attacks on humans reported in Southern California.

Mountain Lion, Cougar, Puma, Leopard
Los Angeles is said to be one of only two major cities in the world in which big wild cats roam freely. The other is Mumbai, India, where 150-pound leopards roam through some of that city's neighborhoods. As mountain lions enter urban areas from the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles, leopards enter urban areas from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in northern Mumbai.

Life is precarious for mountain lions in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Not only do they face natural threats such as interspecies violence from increasingly being crowded into smaller habitats, predators eating their young, and from inbreeding, but they face urban threats from motor vehicles and rat poison in their food chain and even, in one case, poaching. A 2016 joint UCLA/National Park Service study concluded that the Los Angeles region's mountain lion population faces possible extinction within 50 years.

P-22, Mountain Lion, Puma, Cougar, Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Also see: Life and Death of P-22 - L.A.'s Most Famous Mountain Lion

Prior to 11,000 years ago, Los Angeles saw the likes of a larger, considerably more powerful big cat called the saber-tooth cat (Latin Smilodon fatalis, popularly misnamed "saber-tooth tiger"). These were only slightly smaller than African lions, yet were considerably more powerful, with large deadly canines measuring up to eight inches. They were estimated to weigh between 350 to 620 pounds. At the La Brea Tar Pits site in the Wilshire District of Los Angeles, paleontologists have identified fossilized remains of more than 2,000 individual saber-toothed cats. The ancient extinct animal is California's most famous Ice Age fossil and, in 1974, was designated as California's state fossil. In 2000, author Jeff Rovin brought them back to life to terrorize Southern California in his fictional novel Fatalis.

Also see: 12 Things You Should Know About the La Brea Tar Pits

Saber-Tooth Cat, Dire Wolf, La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles

Smilodon californicus (Saber-Tooth Cat) and Canis dirus (Dire Wolf) fight over a Mammuthus columbi (Columbian Mammoth) carcass in the La Brea Tar Pits. Frontpiece illustration by Robert Bruce Horsfall from A History of Land Mammals in the Western Hemisphere, by William Berryman Scott, New York, MacMillan Publishing Company, 1913, redone at Wikimedia Commons.

Some Facts & Figures (as of Nov. 27, 2021)

* The National Park Service has studied 99 mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains.
* The leading causes of death among study animals is vehicle strikes, rodenticide poisoning, and intraspecific strife (mountain lions killing other mountain lions).
* A total of 24 mountain lions in the study area have been struck and killed by vehicles since 2002.
* A typical home range is around 150 square miles for adult males and 50 square miles for adult females.
* Mountain lions typically eat about one deer per week, along with other smaller prey as the opportunity arises. NPS researchers have analyzed more than 700 kills, of which 87% were mule deer (the second-most common prey was coyotes and then raccoons).
* 28 of 29 mountain lions have tested positive for exposure to one or more anticoagulant rodenticides (rat poison) and seven have died directly of poisoning.

Source: National Park Service

Also see: Lions in the Santa Monica Mountains? by the National Park Service.

Mountain Lion Attacks on People, Los Angeles County, Since 1986

Date Location Incident
March 1995 Mt. Lowe (San Gabriel Mountains) 27-yr-old male cyclist bitten and cut by mountain lion, but fought the animal off with rocks. It was later tracked down and killed.
August 2021 Calabasas Area 5-yr-old boy attacked by 65-pound mountain outside his home; Child survived after mother hit and punched the animal, chasing it off. It was later killed by Wildlife officer.
September 2022 Stevenson Ranch 7-yr-old boy attacked by mountain in Pico Canyon Park; Child was walking up stairs when attacked from behind. Child survived after father scared the animal off and received only relatively minor wounds. Attempts by Wildlife officers to capture the animal by luring it with bait were unsuccessful and they concluded it was no longer in the park.

Source: Verified Mountain Lion-Human Attacks - California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife


Black Bear, Malibu Creek State Park

A Black Bear photographed in 2016 by a camera trap in the Santa Monica Mountains at Malibu Creek State Park. Courtesy National Park Service.

At one time, California Grizzly Bears roamed widely throughout Los Angeles County and Southern California. Hunting, however, decimated the numbers of this magnificent beast. In 1916, the last known Grizzly in the wild in Southern California was believed to have been shot and killed in Los Angeles County. The California Grizzly, whose image appears on California's state flag, has now long been extinct. By 1933, bears of any species were extinct in the mountains of Southern California. That year, in an attempt to reintroduce bears to the Los Angeles area, rangers from Yosemite National Park introduced 11 California Black Bears to the San Gabriel Mountains near Crystal Lake. The Black Bear is a smaller and much less aggressive cousin of the Grizzly. Biologists estimate that about 150 to 500 Black Bears now roam Angeles National Forest.

Bear attacks on humans are rare and typically follow an incident where a bear feels threatened or perceives a threat to its cubs. Since 1986, there have been at least 25 "bear attack" incidents reported in Southern California (all non-fatal and all involving California Black Bears). Nine of these occurred in Los Angeles County. The majority of incidents in Los Angeles County occurred in the Angeles National Forest, however, some occurred in residential communities along the foothills of the national forest. The last two incidents (through 2021) involved teenage girls, in which one girl was awakened and attacked by a bear while napping in her backyard in Sierra Madre in 2020. She was scratched and bitten, but fought off the bear using her laptop. In the other incident, in 2021, a girl actually fought off a bear by pushing it off a wall in her backyard in Bradbury. The bear, a mother with cubs, was engaging the girl's barking pet dogs. The girl then quickly scooped up her dogs and retreated into the house before the bear could recover. Neither she nor any of the animals were harmed.

Sources: California Department of Fish and Wildlife and local news sources.

Black Bear, Mammoth Mountain, California

A Black Bear photographed on Mammoth Mountain, California. Los Angeles Almanac Photo.

Black Bear

A Black Bear. Photograph provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Flickr.