Some residents in northwest Calgary are feeling uneasy about coyotes after reports of at least one dog being bitten, daily sightings and some tense moments walking in the area.
The University of Calgary has closed a green space known as the West Ponds area, tucked behind the Alberta Children's Hospital, in the hopes that coyotes moving their pups nearby will finish up without conflict.
Some residents say they wish the university would do more to communicate.
Neighbours started a WhatsApp group to alert each other of incidents and sightings. Many don't allow their kids to play outside unsupervised.
"We're seeing them all day every day," said resident and University Heights Community Association board member Andrea Trainor.
"I don't know where people walk to feel safe."
According to the city's 311 data, between January and April there were 619 reported coyote sightings across the city — compared to 579 over the same period last year.
So far this month, citizens have reported 139 to 311.
University of Calgary closes park
Residents say they have seen city crews out, hazing coyotes.
However, the University of Calgary is taking a different approach. This week, they shut down a park near the children's hospital.
"Coyotes are moving pups across the West Ponds by the children's hospital and beyond, and are in a heightened state of alert," a university spokesperson said in a statement.
"We made a short-term closure to allow coyotes to move away without resulting in any conflict for people and pets."
Simon Corrin — vice-president of the University Heights Community Association — wants to see better communication and action from the school. He says residents aren't sure closing off a park will have a lasting impact.
"The dens and a lot of the activity is on the University of Calgary campus, and then the coyotes come off campus in the community," Corrin said.
On a personal note, over the last number of weeks he's changed his morning routine — skipping his usual dog walk. If he does go for a walk he comes prepared.
"I actually carry a coyote pepper spray with me now," he said. "I also carry a cut-off hockey stick, because once the coyotes start following or stopping you, they won't leave you alone."
Kids kept inside
There was one incident where coyotes were circling and yipping at Corrin. He said they are often seen out and about, and aren't bothered by people.
It's to the point where Trainor said her kids aren't allowed to leave the house without supervision.
"Not in the front yard, not in the backyard, not in the alley," she said.
In many circumstances she's made herself big and made noises to scare coyotes away, but said they don't seem bothered.
"I think it can be scary for the kids because the coyotes aren't really deterred."
Trainor said there are at least a dozen coyotes in the area with parents and pups. She's worried about dwindling habitat with the number of coyotes residents are seeing.
Many in the community feel the coyote sightings and incidents have gone up since construction began on the University District.
"That removed a lot of that natural habitat, coyotes really don't have many places to go anymore," Corrin said.
Corrin has lived in the area for 15 years. He said seeing a coyote used to happen once or twice over the span of six months — now, sightings happen daily.
U of C tips if you come across a coyote:
Don't feed any wild animals.
Give wildlife lots of space, including coyotes.
Keep small children close and stay calm if you spot a coyote.
Off-leash pets aren't permitted on campus.
Denning coyotes are especially protective of their young and will protect pups from dogs. Move away immediately if you have a dog on or off leash.
If a coyote approaches you:
Don't turn away or run.
Avoid the animal, move away.
Shout, wave your arms overhead.
Keep eye contact.
If the coyote isn't deterred by shouting, snap an umbrella or a plastic bag at it.
Call campus security at 403-220-5333 or 911 if you are in immediate danger.