Pandemic leads to increase in coyote sightings

·2 min read

The Ministry of Natural Resources says the number of coyotes in southwestern Ontario may not be as high as people believe.

Jolanta Kowalski says there’s been no spike in the coyote population. The uptick in sightings is due in part to people staying home because of COVID-19. “With more people working from home because of the pandemic, they are seeing what they think is more wildlife,” the senior Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry spokeswoman says. “It doesn’t mean there are more animals — it’s just that we weren’t home to see them before.”

According to Kowalski, numbers of the wily predator depend on the availability of food and habitat, and sometimes disease, factors humans have little control over. Kowalski says media reports that coyotes are becoming bolder may also be exaggerated.

The animals are generally shy of people, but some do become habituated to humans, Kowalski says. “They lose their fear because they become used to human food sources,” she notes.

Many websites caution the public to keep their pets safe from coyotes as they are known to kill domestic animals and pets, including chickens, cats and even dogs.

While most coyotes try and keep their distance from human contact, an animal will occasionally become aggressive, Kowalski says. She warns that you never approach or touch a wild animal and do not turn your back or run either. Kowalski says to “back away from the animal while remaining calm.”

You can also “stand tall, wave your hands and make lots of noise,” she says. If walking outside at night, it’s wise to have a flashlight, Kowalski notes.

It’s extremely rare, says Kowalski, but there are a few cases in North America where the animals have attacked humans resulting in injuries and even death.

Coyotes can be hunted year round and it’s a popular winter group sport for many local hunters. The pelts can be sold and the fur is often used to trim winter parkas.

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald