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Abandoned Las Vegas house drawing coyotes and ‘corpse flies,’ residents say

Updated July 6, 2024 - 12:45 pm

When brisk weather gave way to spring conditions a few months after Jami Whitehead bought her house in 2021, she grabbed a cup of coffee to finally enjoy her spacious backyard.

An invasion of “corpse flies” quickly interrupted her outing.

“I’ve never seen this kind of fly before, and they hover in huge swarms,” she recently told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Whitehead explained the ongoing issues related to an abandoned house next door, which neighbors said became a haven for wildlife.

Individual residents have experienced a different “tipping point,” Whitehead said.

She described her own: putrid smells and the winged critters that know no home boundaries, including wasps to which she is allergic.

For other residents, it’s been the mosquito bites they’d never suffered before, she said.

Some are especially upset over the dismemberment of “Oreo,” a beloved feral cat whose death they blame on a pack of coyotes that started appearing on surveillance cameras in the early mornings.

Jeanne David said a group of residents had taken it upon themselves to care for about a dozen cats like Oreo, but that they weren’t in danger until the coyotes started coming by.

“They are hungry and they are hunting,” David said about the coyotes. “Neighbors have seen them coming from that house. We suspect that there is a den in or around that house most likely in the shrubs and bushes that haven’t been touched in years.”

Neighbors argued that the abandoned house, located near The Lakes master-planned community east of Summerlin, is the source of their issues.

The homeowners association has ignored their pleas, while the Nevada Department of Wildlife has scoffed at their concerns about coyotes, said David and Whitehead.

City action

Residents contacted Las Vegas Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, who recently visited the property with code enforcement officers.

Not long after, on June 26, the city took action.

“Code Enforcement removed excessive and dead vegetation from this property due to the fire risk,” city spokesperson Jace Radke wrote in a statement. “The property was secured, and mosquito dunks were placed in the pool to prevent mosquito reproduction if/when it rains.”

In return, the city placed a lien on the property, Seaman said. Clark County records show that it was one of 35 varying liens on the property since 2007. Outcomes of the cases were not immediately available.

“This has been a bad actor for some time,” Seaman told the Review-Journal. “We’re not letting up on this property.”

Seaman said officials have not been able to reach the homeowners.

The property is registered to a trust from a family that’s owned it since the late 1980s, shortly after it was built, according to records.

Seaman instructed city Animal Protection Services to respond to coyote complaints, and she called for a meeting with executive staff to discuss a streamlined process for taking over houses that become delinquent from unpaid fees.

“The neighbors deserve better,” she said.

Whitehead said Friday that conditions have improved. “The house is better,” but neighbors are still dealing with mosquito bites, she added.

‘Unacceptable’

Doug Nielsen, conservation education supervisor with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said coyotes, an unprotected species, are native to the Mojave Desert.

The canines, which are related to wolves, prey on rodents, rats and rabbits, and they steer clear of humans, who have encroached on their land, Nielsen said.

After visiting the house, the department didn’t find a coyote nest, but it learned that neighbors had been feeding feral cats, he said.

Nielsen said that coyotes have likely been roaming the neighborhood for longer than they’re aware, and that an increased use of doorbell cameras has led to an explosion of reported sightings.

“As long as the property is in the condition it’s in, we’re going to have a problem with it attracting a variety of species,” he said. “If you’re feeding other animals, then you’re creating an attractant.”

The wildlife department only collects and euthanizes coyotes reported to be aggressive to humans.

“The people need to understand that the animal will not be moved (from) one place to another,” he said, adding that humans can easily scare coyotes by being assertive and loud.

But Seaman said it was “unacceptable” to wait for coyotes to attack to take action.

“This is a public safety issue,” the mayoral candidate said. “That’s why we’re all coming together and I want something done.”

Whitehead worries about vulnerable neighborhood residents, such as children and elderly people.

“There’s just people that are not going to be as capable to fight off a coyote, and definitely not a pack of coyotes who don’t really seem to be afraid of people anymore,” she said.

‘Sleepless nights’

Whitehead bought her house to live with her parents after her mother became ill. It had a good price point, and it was spacious, she added.

She said she knew no one lived next door, but she didn’t learn how bad the backyard was until she experienced the swarm of flies.

“You can’t swat 1,000 flies at once,” she said. “You just can’t.”

Records show that Clark County, a utility company and a homeowners association have also placed liens on the abandoned house.

“What are they they doing with the money that they’ve collected, because they’re certainly not cleaning up the yard with it,” she said. “Who’s going to forfeit a $500,000 house for a $1,000 yard cleanup. You’re kind of a special kind of idiot to do that.”

Whitehead said she feels powerless because cleaning the house next door is out of her control. Instead, she’s placed barbed wire over her wall to deter coyotes from jumping over.

“I can’t go on their property,” she said. “I can’t remediate their issue myself. I’m dependent on somebody else to remediate it for me because it’s their job.”

David was worried about the neighborhood cats.

“I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had over the last week thinking that I’m going to be waking up to another one of my dead cats,” she said.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com.

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