When it comes to co-existing with coyotes, it takes a village, or in this case, an entire city.
Lesley Sampson, director of Coyote Watch Canada, gave a presentation at the Nov. 16 Thorold city council meeting about interacting with coyotes as the community grows.
Coyote Watch Canada is an all volunteer-based coyote research, consultation and response organization.
“Meeting the challenge of co-existing with these exceptionally intelligent animals, it’s important to understand who they are, what their biology is, how they function within an ecosystem and what folks can do on a daily basis to make sure that they’re wildlife-proofing their properties,” Sampson said.
“Looking at successful co-existence, everybody has to be engaged,” she said, referring not only to residents, but their municipalities and residential animal welfare services.
According to Sampson, along with filling their ecological niche of eating rodents, coyotes are considered a keystone species that clean up animal carcasses and are considered to have spiritual importance in some communities.
Southern Ontario is home to the eastern coyote, which is a modern day product of the western coyote and Algonquin wolf, a hybridization that occurred over 100 years ago, according to Sampson.
Sampson stated the two main causes of increased coyote appearances are feeding and environmentally disruptive land development.
“Sometimes, it’s a bit of a learning curve for residents to understand that if they’re feeding one species, they’re essentially feeding all species,” she said, as this is the case with residents feeding coyotes or other wild animals, be it directly via bird feeders for example, or indirectly by leaving food behind in public places such as parks.
She said coyotes often remain in the same home range with their families and their mate for life, so development that is destructive to their home will also lead them into new territory.
In case of encounters, she recommended a tactic referred to as aversion conditioning: A typically assertive message from person to coyote that may involve a non-lethal physical effort in case of confrontation.
Examples of aversion conditioning include: Raising your voice, waving arms above the head, whistles or horns, using natural projectiles such as sticks or rocks, if possible, using a water hose, shaking a can filled with coins, popping an umbrella or filling a garbage bag with air and then snapping it.
Sampson did, however, warn never to turn your back to the animal and that whistles or horns may be less effective if the encounter is happening near an area such as a sports field. She said that coyotes and dogs may perceive each other as a threat, so when out with pets, using a leash is of utmost importance.
She did, however, warn against using aversion conditioning if encounters happen near a coyote den, if the coyote is rearing pups, injured, ill or consuming a natural food source.
She stressed the importance of repeating these behaviours when possible, in case of future encounters in order to set a pattern, as well as contacting local wildlife officials to help identify the cause of the sighting and the possibility of forced removal.
“The best thing that we can do as a community is to embrace these animals, they aren’t going anywhere,” she said, adding that trapping was also an ineffective method despite over 100 years of trying. She suggested the best way to deal with coyotes is being informed and involved as a community.
For more information on Coyote Watch Canada and aversion tactics, email email@example.com and in case of urgent need, call the canid hotline at 905-931-2610.
Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News