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County urging boaters to watch out for manatees

DAYTONA TIMES — The number of manatees killed by boat strikes is on the rise in Florida. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, 93 manatee deaths, including 10 in Volusia County, were caused by watercraft collisions from Jan. 1 through July 19. The staff of Volusia County’s Manatee Protection Program urges boaters to be on the lookout for manatees as they travel in the St. Johns River and Halifax/Indian River. When struck by boats, these slow-moving marine mammals can incur deep wounds and internal damage. 

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By The Daytona Times

The number of manatees killed by boat strikes is on the rise in Florida. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, 93 manatee deaths, including 10 in Volusia County, were caused by watercraft collisions from Jan. 1 through July 19.

The staff of Volusia County’s Manatee Protection Program urges boaters to be on the lookout for manatees as they travel in the St. Johns River and Halifax/Indian River. When struck by boats, these slow-moving marine mammals can incur deep wounds and internal damage.

Because manatees are often difficult to see, Debbie Wright, Volusia County’s manatee protection program manager, urges boaters to follow these guidelines:

  • Obey posted speed limits.
  • Wear polarized sunglasses to eliminate the sun’s glare and see below the water’s surface.
  • Avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas where manatees might be feeding. Be aware that manatees also use deep-water channels when traveling.
  • Look for a snout, back, tail or flipper breaking the water’s surface.
  • Watch for “manatee footprints,” swirls or flat spots on the water created by a manatee’s tail when it dives or swims.
  • Remain at least 50 feet away from a manatee when operating a powerboat.
  • If you plan to jet-ski, water-ski or participate in other high-speed watersports, choose areas that manatees cannot frequent, such as land-locked lakes or waters well offshore.
  • If you see a manatee that is sick, injured, dead or orphaned, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922.

This article originally appeared in the Daytona Times.

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Norwalk approves plan to manage coyotes

WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Although it’s legal to kill a coyote under certain circumstances, the city will take a more humane approach with a “coexistence and management” plan, approved on a 5-0 vote by the City Council Oct. 1. Public Safety Director Grissel Chavez said a coyote may be killed if it is attacking a person or pet and under state law anyone can hire a licensed hunter to kill the animals.

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Urban Coyote (Photo by: wavenewspapers.com)

By Arnold Adler

NORWALK — Although it’s legal to kill a coyote under certain circumstances, the city will take a more humane approach with a “coexistence and management” plan, approved on a 5-0 vote by the City Council Oct. 1.

Public Safety Director Grissel Chavez said a coyote may be killed if it is attacking a person or pet and under state law anyone can hire a licensed hunter to kill the animals.

But a report by Chavez and Management Analyst Amanda Moreno stated that Humane Society studies indicate killing or relocating animals doesn’t work as the dead animal is soon replaced and an animal taken from the area to another location often finds its way back.

Instead, the city Management and Coexistence Plan aims at educating the public and urging residents to call and report coyote sightings to the Public Safety Department at (562) 929-5732.

City staff will form a wildlife watch, using data from residents to chart actions of coyotes.

Maps will be made for citywide distribution showing where large numbers of coyotes may be found, Moreno said.

“The management plan is to discourage the habituation of coyotes in an urban environment by using education, behavior modification and development of a tiered response to aggressive coyote behavior,” the report states.

This plan is guided by the following basic principles, Moreno said in an oral report.

• Human safety is a priority in managing human-coyote interactions.

• Understanding that coyotes serve an important role in the ecosystem by helping to control the population of rodents, rabbits and other urban mammals.

• Preventive practices such as reduction and removal of food attractants, habitat modification and responding appropriately when interacting with wildlife are key to minimizing potential interactions with coyotes.

• Solutions for coyote conflicts must address both problematic coyote behaviors (such as aggression towards people and attacks on pets) and the problematic human behaviors (intentionally or unintentionally feeding coyotes and letting pets outside unattended) that contribute to conflicts.

“A community-wide program that involves residents is necessary for achieving coexistence among people, coyotes and pets,” Chavez and Moreno said in the report.

“Recommended actions in this plan are designed to increase knowledge and understanding of how coyotes behave and to make clear how such behavior can be managed or reduced to eliminate human conflicts with coyotes. The ultimate goal of coyote behavior modification is to encourage the natural relocation of coyotes to their native environment.”

“This plan is a step in the right direction. We have received many complaints from residents.”

“This plan will show that we are addressing the problem,” Mayor Margarita Rios said.

Moreno told the Council that city staff has worked with other communities and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on how to respond to the recent influx of coyotes in urban areas.

Historically, coyotes have existed for years in Norwalk and Los Angeles County, finding safe haven in areas within the city where dense brush is prominent, the report said. These areas provide suitable locations where coyotes can safely build dens and reproduce

Wildlife experts say the prolonged drought has limited potential food sources for the coyotes and has drawn the coyotes to residential neighborhoods in search of food and water.

Coyotes primarily eat small mammals, such as rabbits, ground squirrels and mice. They tend to prefer fresh meat but will eat significant amounts of fruits and vegetables during the autumn and winter months when their prey is scarce.

The report said coyotes will adapt their diet to what is available. A lack of prey and closer proximity to residents has led the coyotes to seek alternative food sources, including small pets, pet food and fallen fruits and vegetables in the backyards of homes.

In answer to a question by Councilman Leonard Shryock, Moreno said coyotes will enter a yard looking for food if they are hungry enough.

Generally, coyotes are reclusive animals who avoid human contact. As coyotes have become urbanized, however, they have realized there are few real threats in suburban environments. This has resulted in coyotes approaching people and even feeling safe visiting yards when people are present, the report stated.

In response to coyote activity in neighborhoods, the city relies on its residents to report encounters but more importantly, to follow the recommended action plan when they encounter coyotes.

In Norwalk, the Downey-based Southeast Area Animal Control Authority will handle coyote issues such as disposal of sick, injured or dead animals. SEAACA can be reached at (562) 803-3301,

If a coyote is posing an immediate threat, residents are advised to call 911.

This article originally appeared in the Wave Newspapers.

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L.A. County Adopts ‘Socially Conscious’ Animal Shelter Practices

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — Animal rights activists praised Los Angeles County’s decision to adopt “socially conscious” operating practices for its animal shelter, warning that alternative “no-kill” policies often result in unsafe, overcrowded facilities and dangerous dogs on the street.

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By Sentinel News Wire

Animal rights activists praised Los Angeles County’s decision to adopt “socially conscious” operating practices for its animal shelter, warning that alternative “no-kill” policies often result in unsafe, overcrowded facilities and dangerous dogs on the street.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger asked for an update on the new practices at the Department of Animal Care and Control. A report back is expected in 90 days.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals representative Lisa Lange said the DACC has emphasized spay and neuter policies to help reduce the population of stray and homeless animals, rather than emulating no-kill shelters that turn sick and dangerous animals away to maintain favorable statistics.

“We all want to see an end to the homeless animal crisis, but the way to get there is not by closing our shelter doors and turning animals away for a meaningless save rate,” Lange told the board. “This policy will help animals on a huge level.”

PETA representative Diana Mendoza called the newly adopted practices “a smart, compassionate, level-headed model that has the power to bring the community together. Instead of reducing animals to statistics the way the no-kill movement does, socially conscious sheltering puts the animals’ interests firmly in focus along with what is best for the community.”

The DACC said many no-kill practices require agencies to refuse admission to animals that aren’t adoptable and also overcrowd shelters, increasing the risk of disease.

Some release dangerous dogs for adoption to meet live release goals, according to the DACC and PETA.

The PETA website details dozens of instances of hoarding animals or sickly or dangerous dogs approved for adoption.

“It’s time for the truth that not all animals, just like not all people, are loving, trainable and safe,” said Phyllis Daugherty of the Animal Issues Movement.

Socially conscious sheltering originated in Colorado. Its goals are to ensure every unwanted or homeless pet has a safe place to go for shelter and care and to make every healthy and safe animal available for adoption.

In line with those practices, the DACC will not offer animals for adoption that are dangerous or “irremediably suffering.” And it will compassionately euthanize animals in severe, unremitting pain or suffering from other serious health challenges.

The DACC transferred 7,763 animals to low-intake animal shelters around the country last year in an effort to maximize adoption rates for healthy, safe pets. Here at home, it assesses potential adopters to make suitable matches and provides post-adoption support to ensure good outcomes.

The Long Beach City Council is deciding whether to adopt a no-kill policy for its shelter and in April heard from advocates on both sides of the issue who claimed to share the same goal of saving treatable animals and “putting down” animals when necessary due to injury or illness.

No kill advocates say they save more lives, while those against no kill policies say Long Beach would have to end its open admissions policy, ABC7 reported. The matter is expected to come back before the council this month.

A PETA shelter in Norfolk, Virginia came under scrutiny in 2015 for the 80 percent rate of euthanization in its shelter there, leading state lawmakers to pass a bill changing the definition of an animal shelter. But PETA staffers said they end up caring for animals turned away by other shelters. Many owners of elderly or suffering pets also turn to PETA when they cannot afford to pay the veterinarian’s fee for euthanasia, the animal rights organization told the Washington Post.

A blog post from PETA President Ingrid Newkirk states, “It’s easy to point the finger at those who are forced to do the ‘dirty work’ caused by a throwaway society’s casual acquisition and breeding of dogs and cats who end up homeless and unwanted, but at PETA, we will never turn our backs on neglected, unloved and homeless animals — even if the best we can offer them is a painless release from a world that doesn’t have enough heart or homes with room for them.”

The DACC’s live release rate for dogs is 88 percent and it finds homes for roughly half of the cats that come into its shelters, nearly double the rate for felines five years ago.

“Through collaboration with strategic partners, especially the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), DACC has been abcle to greatly improve outcomes for animals in its care,” DACC Director Marcia Mayeda said. “We are committed to continuing our efforts through socially conscious animal sheltering to save animals’ lives and protect our communities.”

This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.

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L.A. City Council Confirms Denise M. Verret as Zoo Director of the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens

LOS ANGELES SENTINEL — Los Angeles City Council confirmed today the Mayor’s nomination of Denise M. Verret to serve as the new Zoo Director of the Los Angeles Zoo. Verret previously served as the Zoo’s interim Zoo Director while a nationwide search was conducted by the Mayor’s office, and she will assume her new role immediately.

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By Sentinel News Service

Los Angeles City Council confirmed today the Mayor’s nomination of Denise M. Verret to serve as the new Zoo Director of the Los Angeles Zoo. Verret previously served as the Zoo’s interim Zoo Director while a nationwide search was conducted by the Mayor’s office, and she will assume her new role immediately.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with Denise as the interim Zoo Director,” said L.A. Zoo Commission President Karen Winnick. “Her passion and concern for the well-being of the animals, her dedication to the Zoo’s mission, and her leadership and organizational skills that make Denise a great choice to be our new L.A. Zoo Director.”

As the Zoo Director, Verret will oversee the well-being of more than 1400 animals and nearly two million visitors each year. Verret will continue the Zoo’s mission of being a leader in conservation and saving animals from extinction and a champion of the highest standards in animal welfare. A top priority will be the implementation of the Zoo’s Vision Plan, a comprehensive redesign and redevelopment of the Zoo’s existing 133-acre site to replace outdated buildings and infrastructure and transform the Zoo into something that is uniquely Los Angeles.

“I would like to thank Mayor Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council members for their vote of confidence in my serving as the next Zoo Director of the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens,” said Verret. “As the Los Angeles Zoo continues to evolve, I’m humbled to be working alongside the best and brightest staff and volunteers as we strive to make the Los Angeles Zoo an institution that thrives and is relevant and meaningful for all people from all backgrounds.”

Prior to serving as the interim Zoo Director, Verret held the position of the Zoo’s Deputy Director since 2000. During her 19-year tenure, Verret provided executive leadership over a variety of functions and major operations including Finance, Administration, Information Technology, Human Resources, Admissions and Guest Relations, Capital Projects, Planning and Development, Public Relations, and Education and Interpretive Programs. Among Verret’s many achievements include directing the development of the Zoo’s Strategic Plan, Vision Plan, and the Business and Marketing Plan. Verret began her City career in 1988 at the Office of the City Administrative Officer (CAO) until she promoted to the L.A. Zoo. Verret earned her Bachelor of Science in Administrative Studies at the University of California Riverside.

Verret serves as example to her zoological peers by becoming the first female African American Zoo Director of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institution in its history. The AZA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums since 1924 that has been accrediting zoos and aquariums since 1974. Verret has been very active in the AZA having served on the Business Operations, Annual Conference Program, and Nominating committees. Verret currently serves as an AZA accreditation inspector, as well as a member of the Government Affairs and Diversity committees.

“As the first female African American Zoo Director of an AZA-accredited Zoo, I have the opportunity to be an example for all women of color to dream big and aim high for leadership roles in their profession. As I accept this position, I am reminded of the strong, driven female mentors who paved the way for me, and I’m honored to continue the tradition of helping to lift up women to advance their career which enriches and diversifies our city.”

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Sentinel. 

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