Runners and pets fall target to coyotes, cougars in Lower Mainland

·3 min read

A jogger bitten by a coyote in Stanley Park this week was the latest in an unprecedented string of coyote attacks this winter – amid other cougar issues and bobcat sightings around the province.

Sixteen people have been bitten by wily coyotes – all of them runners or cyclists – BC Conservation Officer Sgt. Simon Gravel told Black Press Media.

This is what happens when coyotes lose their fear of humans, he said. He guesses the pack animals have watched humans feed other wildlife, and learned humans are a source of food.

It’s normal and healthy to have coyotes in parks — they serve an essential pest control function — but the recent aggression is concerning, Gravel said.

His hope is to “re-fear” the animals to humans, but they don’t have a perfect strategy yet on how to do so. Gravel and his colleagues are working with researchers. Ultimately public safety is paramount, but there is no intention at this time to remove the pack.

“We want to come up with a plan that’s fair for coyotes, the ecosystem and people.”

Gravel estimates there are 12 coyotes in Stanley Park, most likely all part of one pack.

Runners particularly trigger a coyote’s instincts, he said, prompting the Conservation Officer Service to close several trails and issue a warning to the public not to run in the park until further notice. If you do encounter a coyote, act large, be loud and slowly back away without turning around. Do not turn your back, and do not run.

Coyotes aren’t the only animal being watches by Conservation Officers.

Forested areas of Metro Vancouver have had several cougar sightings, including one in Coquitlam where a small dog was captured by a cougar. The dog owner chased the cougar and it dropped the dog, who is expected to recover from the bite wounds.

Most recently, a young coyote was killed by officials after a teen reported being followed home by a pup and its mom.

“Cougar sightings in greenbelt areas are common across the Lower Mainland. If you spot a cougar near your home, it is most likely passing through the neighbourhood and will move on. It is advised to bring children and pets inside. It is not unusual for cougars to target small dogs, or cats, as prey,” BC COS wrote.

In the interior, BC COS warned Kamloops residents to keep an eye out for bobcats and lynx, which have been spotted more than normal this winter. So far no one’s reported an attach, but it’s advised to keep pets leashed when outside.

Are animals going stir crazy, too, as we approach day eleventy-thrice of working from home?

Cougar sightings over the past 12 months are up by 16 over the same range the year before, but COs attended fewer calls and destroyed fewer cats – 17 attendances and three animals were destroyed in the last 12 months compared to 33 attendances and seven cats killed during the prior 12 months. (BC COS statistics are updated on a rolling 12-month basis.)

Coyote and bobcat sightings aren’t tracked, since they are so rarely aggressive towards humans. Sightings of dangerous animals should be reported to the RAPP line: 1-877-952-7277.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca

Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette