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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Officials in a Southern California suburb beset by a surge in coyote attacks on pets, including a small dog snatched from its owner's living room, have approved a plan to trap and kill some of the wild canines roaming the town.
The City Council of Seal Beach, a seaside community of about 25,000 residents south of Los Angeles, took the action this week following an uproar over a rise in coyotes venturing into neighborhoods to prey on dogs and cats.
Seal Beach residents have reported 50 pets killed by coyotes so far in 2014, many more than the typical number documented during a single year, Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos said on Wednesday.
He said much of the recent coyote activity centered on an apartment complex for retirees, where one woman reported walking back into her home after taking out the trash to find that a coyote had followed her indoors and grabbed her small dog.
"When I turned around, the coyote had her in his mouth and was running out the door," Vicki Young told television station KTLA-TV. "I haven't gotten over it, and I'm not sure that I will, because she was my constant companion."
Gallegos confirmed that account and said other residents had shot video of the normally nocturnal predators, typically wary of humans, running around homes at midday.
"There's a fear of a child getting hurt or a senior breaking her hip because they're trying to protect their pet," he said.
Some experts theorize that construction along an interstate highway has disturbed coyote dens and displaced their natural prey, driving coyotes into more populated areas for food. Persistent regional drought may also be a factor, Gallegos said.
He said the city was not out to eradicate coyotes but to bring them under control. Under a plan approved on Monday, the city will hire a private company to set traps in areas where nuisance animals pose the greatest threat. Those caught will be euthanized.
He said the city would also better enforce laws prohibiting the feeding of wildlife, requiring trash cans be covered and encouraging brush removal.
Not everyone supports trapping coyotes. Randi Feilich of the Project Coyote group told KTLA that residents needed to remove wildlife "attractants," such as bird feeders, pet dishes and fallen fruit from around homes.
"People have to assume responsibility for their own pets, as they would for their own children," she said.
Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney