Matthew Duncan to Anaheim: Stop Killing Coyotes in Gas Chambers!

“Coyote power: surviving by one’s intelligence and wits when others cannot; embracing existence in a mad, dancing, laughing, sympathetic expression of pure joy at evading the grimmest of fates; exulting in sheer aliveness; recognizing our shortcomings with rueful chagrin.”

Dan Flores, “Coyote America.”

Matthew Duncan, who grew up in Anaheim in the 60s, 70s & 80s (but now lives in Orange), has always loved and admired coyotes, and felt proud that his hometown had “always had a peaceful relationship with our Native Song Dogs.” Native Song Dogs? Yes, that is what Native Americans, the “First Nations,” call these admirable creatures.

That was until he discovered, last September, that Anaheim has for a few years been trapping and killing these Song Dogs – not just killing them, but killing them inhumanely in mobile CO2 GAS CHAMBERS, which is apparently the cheapest way to do it! Since finding that out, Matthew has been at every Council meeting speaking out against the practice. (And he’s not alone, PETA and other organizations have taken notice as well.)

Anaheim began trapping and killing coyotes this way in 2017. In the last two years Anaheim has trapped and killed 37 coyotes, during which time no bites have been reported. It’s rare for a coyote to bite a human; when they do it’s usually a coyote that’s been fed by a human, and later sees another human and gives a little nip, hoping to get fed by them. DO NOT FEED COYOTES!

SEAL BEACH went through this ten years ago, reacting to a rash of pet killings by hiring a gang of coyote killers called “Critter Busters” (now out of business) who “euthanized” four coyotes by gas chamber until the public became aware of this cruel and inhumane practice, and the protests began. The Laist told the story…

Seal Beach may be slowly coming to its senses about its ill-conceived idea to trap and kill the coyotes who feast on residents’ helpless pets.

In September, the city council approved a measure to trap and kill coyotes, despite scientists’ warnings that the plan wouldn’t actually make a dent in the coyote population and would probably only succeed in killing dumb, slow coyotes. The Gazette reports the city received 15,000 letters about the decision. But residents were fired up and ready to avenge 60 pet attacks, so the city went ahead and hired a company called Critter Busters to take care of their coyote problem, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But the city backtracked once word got out about how critters are busted: the company traps coyotes and asphyxiates them in a mobile gas chamber filled with carbon dioxide. Four coyotes were euthanized this way before there was an outcry. This method is cheaper than lethal injection but residents were none too pleased to hear about it.

Mike Levitt, a Seal Beach city councilman, told the Times, “When Critter Busters told us that it used gas to dispatch coyotes, I assumed it meant the animals were put to sleep. So I voted to approve the contract. I found out [afterward] that the animal does not go to sleep. There are spasms. They choke.”

The LAist, Dec. 2014.

Matthew, who was involved in the Seal Beach fight as well, tells of a well-known coyote nicknamed “Jefferson,” who would stroll across Seal Beach Boulevard at the exact right moment, the species’ quick evolution having taught him in the ways of traffic, and would then saunter, head held high, into the gates of the Naval Base where the guards would welcome him in with grins and waves, military intelligence having evolved to knowing that coyotes live on unwanted vermin.

“Okay, Anaheim, Seal Beach, that’s 2 cities out of 34 in Orange County, what do the others do?”

“I don’t know about all of them, but in Orange where I live now, they teach people to LIVE WITH coyotes. I remember a meeting where a lady complained about her cat being eaten, and a Councilman – I forget his name – responded ‘It’s not our responsibility to protect your pets from wildlife. That is YOUR responsibility.”

So now this trapping and gassing has taken hold in the City of Kindness, which you wouldn’t ever guess from the very publicity-conscious town’s “Living With Coyotes” page. THIRTY-SEVEN KILLED IN TWO YEARS, by asphyxiation in a gas chamber. SOUNDPROOFED so the trapper and any spectators don’t have to hear the poor beast’s cries and gasps. And with no evidence shown that ANY of these coyotes were “aggressive.” I’ll let Matthew Duncan finish this in his own words:

Anaheim’s Living with Coyotes site states, ‘Anaheim has a professional trapper we use throughput the year to handle situations where overpopulation or coyotes being comfortable with people poses a high threat risk.’ I have not received a reply from City officials about the size of Anaheim’s coyote population. Because apparently nobody knows the population size. Citing overpopulation of wildlife is historically a common way to justify killing wildlife.

“Regarding the ‘comfortable with people’ claim: In my more than 50 years of observing coyotes, some in close proximity, I’ve seen coyotes who in the absence of human threat, will often appear to ignore humans. And this behavior goes against the old mindset that demands wildlife be submissive to humans. Anaheim’s Living with Coyotes site is not about living with coyotes. It is about killing coyotes.

“Anaheim’s Coyote Management Plan is inhumane because killing a coyote in a gas chamber causes prolonged distress and pain, which is why killing domestic dogs in a gas chamber is illegal in California. It is considered inhumane. And this is why the Plan never uses the words ‘kill’ or ‘gas chamber.’ Instead, the term ‘humane euthanasia’ is used as a way to sanitize the gassing of coyotes. Killing coyotes in a gas chamber is a bad look for the City.

“Lastly, the Plan is ineffective. California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists have long proclaimed that killing coyotes does not solve coyote problems. Why? Because coyotes aren’t the problem. The problem is attractants, which are often small, unattended outdoor pets. Coyotes are just a symptom of the problem. My family has long coexisted with coyotes throughout California, from Anaheim to Lake Tahoe. Common sense protection measures have resulted in my family losing no dogs, cats, or rabbits to coyotes or any other wildlife. Anaheim’s City Council seems unwilling to discuss this issue. I was a 27 year resident of Anaheim, but Council members have not responded to my voicemails or emails.

“I hope the City of Anaheim will return to being a city that has a peaceful relationship with our native song dogs. Kids growing up in Anaheim today would feel proud of that.”

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.