Some Whitehorse dog owners have recently been startled by aggressive coyotes on a city bike trail.
One dog owner says his pet was attacked and had a mouthful of fur ripped off by one of the wily canines.
"I've never had that happen before, I've never been concerned about that before," said Terry Milne, who was mountain biking the trails at Mount McIntyre with his wife on Sunday, when the encounter happened.
"Our dog just had a minor, like, probably a two-inch-by-one-inch tuft of hair removed, with a slight scrape — but yeah, no puncture wounds."
Milne didn't see it happen. His dog was running with them through the woods, off-leash, when it apparently met a coyote. Milne recalls hearing his dog squealing, "like if she got into a porcupine."
Milne's wife was closer and started calling to him. Milne ran over, just in time to see a coyote dart away into the trees.
Later, Milne reported the incident to conservation officers, and also discovered that other people had had similar encounters in the same area in recent days. Some people were sharing their experiences on social media.
'They want to keep an eye on you'
Conservation officer Dave Bakica says it's likely there was a coyote den near the trail — and the critter or critters were simply defending territory.
"It's often what we call 'escorting behaviour.' You're near their den, they want to keep an eye on you and make sure that you and your pet move on," Bakica said.
"You know, we live in the 'wilderness city,' and that's part of what goes along with traveling in wilderness or recreational areas that are on the edge of the wilderness — wildlife encounters happen."
The coyote or coyotes apparently had enough of those encounters though, as Bakica says the den appears to have been moved, "into another area where there's less disturbance."
He says people should always report wildlife conflicts to conservation officers, but said it's unlikely officers would do much in a case like this. They don't typically move coyote dens, he said.
"It's quite a rodeo trying to catch everybody and keep everybody together," he said.
Milne, a high school teacher, says his own encounter became fodder for a good classroom discussion about human/wildlife conflicts.
"[We] just sort of discussed, like, what do you do, how do you manage this? Like, what are the options, from closing trails to, unfortunately, removal of the coyotes? What's the safe option and how do you co-exist with these species?" Milne said.
"It created an interesting debate."