Stage chats coyotes, vet visit assistance

The local animal population was the topic when Ridgecrest Animal Shelter supervisor Mary Stage spoke to the Rotary Club of China Lake on Wednesday. Stage filled the group in on the latest on the coyotes within city limits and shared information on a benefit being offered by the shelter – the possibility of financial help with diagnostic vet bills. Along the way she also gave an update on the shelter’s new cat room and other projects.

‘We have been getting a lot of coyote calls’

As many residents are aware, an unusually large number of unhealthy-looking coyotes have been spotted within city limits over the past few months.

“We have been getting a lot of coyote calls,” Stage said. She said that technically the coyote problem falls under the Department of Fish and Game, but “people think because it is a dog-like animal we should be handling it.

“We are doing what we can with the coyote situation but we are very limited because technically we are not supposed to be doing anything.”

Stage said, true to reputation, coyotes are clever, wily and difficult to catch. Nonetheless, the shelter has trapped two over the past four months. Both were in bad shape and afflicted with severe mange, intestinal parasites and other conditions. Both coyotes, unfortunately, had to be euthanized. Healthy coyotes who are caught are released back in an appropriate area.

Coyotes usually have litters in the summer time, so from September on they are more visible because the pups are coming out to learn how to hunt.

Stage urged people not to feed coyotes, to take pets in by dusk and especially at night and to keep whistles, rocks, sticks or even a bullhorn on hand to scare them off. Coyotes have also been lured by chickens (which are not supposed to be there) kept in neighborhood backyards.

The Daily Independent spoke to California Department of Fish and Wildlife press officer Peter Tira late last year. Tira reported a current severe case of mange among coyotes, bobcats and kit foxes in Kern County. Mange is easily treatable in household pets, but potentially fatal in wild animals because uncontrolled scratching of the affected areas can lead to other problems.

Mira said the main recommendation for coyote control is simply not to feed them. He also recommended spraying them with a hose. Coyotes are not a protected species so they can be hunted without restrictions, but it is illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits.

Stage said the shelter is working with others to determine the exact type of mange that is prevalent in the area.

Other shelter programs

In a new program, Stage said the shelter may be able to provide financial assistance for people who can’t afford diagnostic and/or emergency vet bills. This is being funded by donations from various sources. Contact her for more information.

The shelter also offers a spay and neuter voucher program. Pet owners can get vouchers for a spay or neuter for a co-pay of $20 per cat or $25 per dog which will allow the pets to be spayed; otherwise spaying or neutering can run up to $300.

The shelter also runs periodic food drives for pet owners, to make sure pets can be fed.

Other news

In other news, Stage said the new cat room was completed at the beginning of December. A grand opening will be scheduled around February. The cat room uses “kitty condos” rather than cages. This is a more welcoming environment which also helps prevent the spread of diseases. Knocking on wood, Stage said that since the condos went in the isolation area for sick pets has not been used at all.

She said the brick memorial area is complete and another new project is a play area for dogs.

Stage also expressed great gratitude for the community’s support of animals.

“We are very lucky to have a great community that reaches out to the shelter. That is one reason why I will never leave Ridgecrest,” she said with a laugh.

The Rotary Club of China Lake also presented Stage with a table full of donated supplies and a check for $500 for the shelter.

The Ridgecrest Animal Shelter is located at 411 San Bernardino Blvd.

Hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; and closed Sundays, Mondays and major holidays.

For more information email mstage@ci.ridgecrest.ca.us or call 760-499-5190.