Gretna study: Let coyote group remain in city park

A study commissioned by a Gretna politician to determine how to handle the city’s burgeoning coyote problem came up with a solution that might annoy some residents: The city plans to do nothing.

Councilman Vincent Cox III said he thinks that is the best course of action after reading over a report prepared by naturalist Leland Hayes about coyotes roaming through Gretna City Park. Cox’s reluctance to kill or remove the coyotes isn’t due to governmental inertia or sentimentality, but rather because the report states that allowing the current small group of coyotes to remain in the park could prevent their numbers from growing. Cox said letting the animals roam the park might not make every resident happy, but it makes the most sense.

“So basically the coyotes aren’t a threat,” said Cox, who sought the study in February. “I’m content. The people in my district are content.”

The study found that there are currently between two and four coyotes living in the park likely as part of a “stable family unit” with one dominant male. Leland Hayes, a wildlife control officer hired by the city, said in his report that this is a good sign because that group will likely protect the park from incursions by other coyotes.

Cox requested the study, which he set aside $3,700 for, after he heard coyotes howling at night, and residents reported seeing them running through the park. There were even reports of the animals dragging off family pets, but Cox said those reports turned out to be false.

However, that didn’t stop residents from expressing concern about the safety of pets and children who use the park, particularly since the city is considering opening a new dog park there.

Cox said the reality is that as long as residents practice care with their pets, it doesn’t make sense for the city to kill the animals. If the current group is eliminated, a new group will just move in, and that group might not be as harmless. However, Cox did acknowledge that because one of the coyotes is pregnant, that could create future problems. A new litter means that the current children will be driven away, and it’s unclear where they would relocate. Councilman Belinda Constant joked that she hoped that didn’t come to her district.

“Are they going to run to Fried and Second Street?” she exclaimed.

Cox said the city can always kill the coyotes if that’s necessary, and Gretna is considering leaving up cameras to track the animals.

“I think we’ve done everything we can,” he said.