Coyote shooter broke at least one law, state wardens say

dsneed@thetribunenews.comJanuary 18, 2013 

A coyote runs through the grass near Calle Joaquin in San Luis Obispo in June 2011.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

California Department of Fish and Wildlife wardens have concluded that at least one and as many as three laws were violated when a coyote was shot this week on a hillside off Prefumo Canyon Road.

Wardens have not identified the shooter and are asking anyone who has information about the incident to call the department’s CalTip line at (888) 334-2258. Tipsters may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.

Lt. Todd Tognazzini said that the Tuesday morning shooting was a crime because the coyote was shot in the city’s Irish Hills Natural Reserve, an open space area where hunting and shooting is not allowed.

“It is highly likely that the shooter was closer than 150 yards from an occupied dwelling as well as using lead ammunition, additional violations of state law,” he said.

The coyote was shot on a hillside immediately behind the Laguna Lake Mobile Estates mobile home park. A housing development along Isabella Way is also nearby.

Since 2008, lead ammunition has been illegal in large areas of the state, including the Central Coast and the southern Sierra Nevada, in order to protect the endangered California condor. Lead is highly toxic and can kill condors and other scavengers that feed on wildlife carcasses killed by lead ammunition.

The investigation into the shooting concluded Thursday evening. Witnesses and possible suspects were interviewed but the shooter has not been identified partly because wardens have not been able to determine where that person was standing at the time of the incident.

“The exact location of the shooter has not been identified due to the echo of the single shot that was heard,” Tognazzini said. “In order to proceed further we could certainly use the public’s help as there may be a witness out there who has more information.”

Coyotes are a nongame species, meaning that they can be killed by a licensed hunter year-round as long as it is done in a safe manner. The department also regularly issues depredation permits that allow property owners to kill game animals, such as bear and feral pigs, which are damaging property or endangering public safety.

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