For years, Edward and Linda Estrada could hear coyotes howling into the 
night from their backyard in The Woodlands.
But it's now oddly quiet among the gnarled oaks, tall 
pines and magnolias, 
and they are finding no comfort in the silence. That's
 because they and 
neighbors fear the coyotes have been wiped out by
 trappers hired by 
Montgomery County in response to a resident's
 complaints about missing cats.
"There are still all
 kinds of animals
 back there, and I
love seeing them,"
said Linda Estrada,
whose unfenced
property fades into
the wilderness along
 Spring Creek. "But
 the coyotes are just gone."
The aggressive sweep, which
 county officials said involved
 trapping 16 coyotes, has roiled
a wealthy enclave with street names
 like Tranquil Path and Pastoral Pond.
 While some residents want
authorities to wage battle against the wily
 predators that stray into the neighborhood,
others are pushing for a coyote-friendly
approach that trains people how to avoid

Similar conflicts have flared across greater Houston
and the country as people 
move into once-open spaces. Here, in a neighborhood
 called Grogan's Point, deer dash
 across streets, while hawks wheel overhead and two
alligators sun themselves
 beside the golf course's ponds.
Just south of Grogan's Point, across the looping
 Spring Creek and a nature preserve,
 is Exxon Mobil's sprawling new campus for at least
 10,000 workers. A few of them 
have moved into the neighborhood, which has doubled
 in size to roughly 500 homes
 since the Estradas arrived in the mid-1990s. Many
of the houses, including NFL star
 Adrian Peterson's 10-acre estate, are valued in
the millions.

Marie Schwarz said she and her husband moved to the
 neighborhood six years ago
 because it's "in The Woodlands, but not really. We
were out in the forest and with 
Not everyone feels at ease so close to nature. In March,
 a resident told neighbors
 that coyotes were responsible for the disappearance of
 two cats and urged authorities
 to act.
Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James
Noack's office hired a trapper 
after consulting with a local game warden who said
 there might be an overpopulation 
of coyotes around the neighborhood because of
nearby development, said Matt Beasley, 
Noack's projects manager.
Beasley said the effort ended after 16 coyotes were
 trapped, with no more action expected. 
Some residents disputed the number, saying it was
too low. They also said some trapped 
coyotes drowned during May's flooding - an
 accusation the county hasn't denied.
One of the outraged residents is Schwarz,
who learned of the push to rid the area of 
coyotes after talking to a trapper whose vehicle
 was parked near her house. Word then
 spread quickly among neighbors.

"It was kind of a shock to a lot of us when we first
heard," said Tom Howard, a retired 
pilot who moved into the neighborhood in 1993 and
 has served as president of its residents' association.
"If a pet turns up missing, you don't go into a nature
preserve to trap animals."
The eradication also troubled the Bayou Land
Conservancy, the nonprofit group that
 manages the many nature preserves along Spring
 Creek in Montgomery County.
Jennifer Lorenz, the conservancy's executive director,
 said authorities didn't notify her 
about the trappings. Coyotes aren't a nuisance like feral
hogs and nutria and shouldn't 
be bothered, she said.
"They are an important part of the ecosystem, and
 we protect that area for wildlife habitat," Lorenz said.
The trapping was an overreaction, considering nobody
 in Texas has died from a coyote
 attack, Lorenz said. What's more, Texas Parks and
 Wildlife Department biologists said
 coyotes have bitten five people - and all of them
were hand-feeding the scruffy creatures 
at the time.

After meeting with conservancy leaders last week,
 Noack's staff agreed to not initiate 
trapping again without consulting them.
Moving forward, the county shouldn't remove
coyotes en masse because the approach
 disrupts the biological community and isn't
effective, said Diana Foss, a biologist for 
the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Coyotes are intelligent, socially organized
 and highly adaptive creatures that keep 
populations of smaller animals in check. The
hole created by their removal will be
 filled by new, younger coyotes with less
 experience around people, increasing the
 odds of confrontations, Foss said.
The best solution is to have a small family
 pack of coyotes that resides around the
 neighborhood and defends it from others,
she said. At the same time, people must take
 steps to minimize conflicts, such as not leaving
 food or small pets outside. A lingering 
coyote can be scared away with loud noises
or a shot of water from a hose.
If the coyote shows no fear and doesn't respond
 to the hazing, then it's time to trap
 "that one," Foss said.
"It's up to us to figure out the best ways to live
with coyotes nearby," she said,
 "because we won't be able to trap all of them.
They will come back."
For now, the nights are quiet in Estradas' yard,
where they like to sit by the fire 
and listen to nature. They didn't build a pool
or fence their two acres because they
 wanted the property to remain part of the forest.
"It's so thoughtless and sad," Linda Estrada
 said of the trappings. "Coyotes were 
never a problem for us. We are living in The
Woodlands, and people need to understand that."