Wardens with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are investigating the killing of a coyote this week off Prefumo Canyon Road on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo that has residents of the area upset.
Witnesses were watching a group of coyotes on a hillside behind Laguna Lake Mobile Estates at about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday when an unseen person shot one of the coyotes, which tumbled partway down the hillside. A volunteer with Pacific Wildlife Care took the wounded animal to the group’s hospital in Morro Bay, but the coyote was so badly wounded it had to be euthanized.
Lt. Todd Tognazzini with Fish and Wildlife said wardens are investigating the incident, but it is not clear that the shooting was a crime. Coyotes are not a protected species; licensed hunters can take them any time of the year, and landowners can shoot them to protect their property.
“It was disturbing to the people who saw it, but it is not apparent at this time that it was a crime,” he said. “It would only be a crime if it was shot in an unsafe manner.”
Witness Jeff Krause lives in the mobile home park and was photographing the pack of coyotes when the shot rang out. The shooter was standing hidden among trees on adjacent private property, he said.
He thinks the shooting was illegal because it occurred close to homes and in the city’s Irish Hills Natural Reserve, an area not intended for hunting.
“Everyone in the park is real upset,” he said. “We don’t like coyotes coming in, but we like people shooting around us even less.”
Krause called both the police and Pacific Wildlife Care. PWC volunteer Brittany Butcher of Grover Beach responded and found a wounded male coyote on the hillside barely alive. The coyote was X-rayed at the group’s rehabilitation center, and this showed that a small-caliber bullet had shattered a vertebrate in the coyote’s neck.
“There’s no fixing that,” Butcher said. “We had to euthanize him to end his suffering.”
Butcher agrees with Krause that the proximity of the shooting to a residential area made it unsafe.
“Not only was an animal needlessly killed, it was so close to homes that someone could toss a softball from where the coyote was shot to one of the nearby houses,” she said.
State law prohibits the discharge of firearms within 150 yards of any residence or structure unless permission is given by the owner.