WATCH ABOVE: This winter, more and more people are crossing paths with aggressive coyotes in city neighbourhoods. Kendra Slugoski reports.
EDMONTON – A sign warning of coyote activity has been posted in Terwillegar Towne.
The sign – posted by the City of Edmonton, University of Alberta, and Protect Coyote – says coyotes have been seen in the area and offers “tips for coexistence.”
The groups advise avoid feeding the animals, removing attractions like pets, waste and compost, and supervising your pets when they’re outside. It suggests, if you are approached by a coyote, you should act big and make loud noises.
A City of Edmonton park ranger told Global News the number of urban coyote sightings have likely remained the same. However, Ramsey Cox said the number of reports of sightings in the southwest along Whitemud Ravine appears to have gone up.
“It’s mainly sightings that people are reporting back to us, and those can be anywhere from one to two coyotes, anywhere along the river valley or really in any of the neighbourhoods within the city,” said Cox.
Colleen Cassady St. Clair, who works with the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project, says there have been reports of dogs being attacked.
“I have that impression, that we’re seeing more coyotes this year. I’m getting more reports on our website,” she said.
“We’re seeing very frequent reports of coyote interactions and they seem to be increasing in their aggressiveness,” said Cassady St. Clair.
“I’ve spoken to a few residents just this past week or so who have had their dogs attacked, or they’ve been chased by coyotes or approached at very close distances by coyotes. All of those are fairly unusual – or had been fairly unusual – and they do seem to be increasing.”
“Usually the dogs are off leash.”
Both Cox and Cassady St. Clair say it is a neighbourhood’s responsibility to keep garbage locked up and minimize coyote attractions.
“Coyotes are omnivores … anything from crab apples, or uncovered compost… barbecues, scents that give off smells.
“It’s really important for people to try to mitigate anything they have in their neighbourhood… to reduce anything that would attract a coyote to the area.”
He explained it’s also a habitat issue.
“If you have spruce trees or under patios, where you have openings where coyotes can get into quite easily and they can get a little shelter there from the wind and cold, then they’ll take advantage of those opportunities. It’s important to section those off and try to keep the coyotes out,” said Cox.
“It’s really a neighbourhood approach.”
Cox explained signs and community education are the first steps. If a higher-risk situation presents itself, Cox said Pest Management and Fish and Wildlife would be called in to determine the appropriate action.
He said there have been no reports of coyote on human contact since 2006.
“Definitely don’t run away,” he said. “See the coyote, face towards it, and you can back away slowly, but don’t run away.”
Cassady St. Clair suggests dog owners carry items like golf balls with them on walks to throw at an approaching coyote.
The City of Edmonton says, as the city grows and expands into their habitat, more coyotes are adapting to food sources in residential areas, like garbage, fruit and pet food.
The Edmonton Urban Coyote Project studies the animals, collecting information in three main areas: coyote movement and habitat selection, diet of coyotes, and the knowledge and perceptions of residents about coyotes.
Since it started collecting data in 2010, the project has seen a steady increase in the number of reported coyote sightings in the city.
But, Cassady St. Clair says that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s been a rise in the number of coyotes.
“We can’t really distinguish between seeing coyotes with greater frequency and there being more coyotes,” she explained.
“We also can’t tell between the boldness of coyotes and higher numbers of coyotes.
“We hope to figure that out in the coming years using DNA samples.”
Should officials be taking a more aggressive approach to coyote control?
“In my view, lethal management a bit of a problem because it tends to be quite contentious in the public, but also, it doesn’t tend to be very effective in the long-term,” said Cassady St. Clair.
“There are cases where it’s certainly called for, but I think as another approach, it might be possible to increase that coexistence with high-security by people, by teaching the coyotes a little more wariness and teaching the public a little more prevention.”