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‘Keep your pets indoors’: Canadians report increased coyote sightings during pandemic

Click to play video: 'Wildlife safety tips ahead of the long weekend' Wildlife safety tips ahead of the long weekend
Andrew Holland, with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, shares advice on what people should do if they encounter a coyote and how to reduce human-wildlife conflict – Apr 3, 2021

Sightings of wildlife have increased in the Atlantic region, but a national agency says that’s likely because people are spending more time in their homes.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Canadians are spending more time in nature, including their own backyards. A release from the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) says reported sightings of wildlife, particularly coyotes, have increased in recent weeks.

But, that’s not because of population growth.

Andrew Holland with NCC says it’s likely because of people’s quieter lifestyles paired with the arrival of spring.

“This is the time of year when coyotes come out of their breeding period in February and March, they’re coming out of the snowy areas and woods, and they’re looking for food,” he says.

“We’re spending more time in our homes and neighbourhoods that we actually notice these animals a bit more.”

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Read more: More wildlife sightings in Canada during COVID-19 isolation, experts say

According to Holland, there are several steps people in urban areas can take to avoid encounters with coyotes and similar wildlife.

“Try to block off your deck or any room under your house they could use for shelter,” he says.

“Keep your pets indoors, and feed them indoors as well. Don’t leave your pets outdoors unprotected.”

Holland says coyotes are shy animals and will generally avoid interactions with humans, but they do prey on livestock and small animals, including pets.

“It’s nice to let your dogs run off the leash a bit where there’s not a lot of people, but at the same time, you don’t know what could be up around the bend,” he says.

“There could be a bear or a coyote that’s protecting their babies or a food source that they’ve found.”

Click to play video: 'Experts offer warnings as coyote denning season approaches' Experts offer warnings as coyote denning season approaches
Experts offer warnings as coyote denning season approaches – Mar 18, 2021

Those who live near wilderness areas should try to keep their pets on a leash at all times, says Holland.

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“Also, just for your benefit, bring a whistle,” he says. “If you do see a bear or a coyote make some noise and make yourself seem bigger.”

Holland says if encountering a wild animal, it’s also important to give it some space.

“Don’t turn around and run,” he says.

“Coyotes are very fast, they’ve got a sprint speed of 70 kilometres per hour; I’m certainly not going to win that footrace.”

He also recommends backing up slowly until the animal leaves, and if it doesn’t – “pick up a stick or some rocks and throw it in their direction.”

Read more: Alberta study shows urban coyotes unhealthy due to human food exposure, higher rates of parasites

Holland says coyotes have become used to humans in some areas and can get territorial if they have a food source or pups. But, they need to be treated with respect.

“In some ways, we’ve moved into their habitat,” he says.

“Just keep in mind that we have to share these areas, and we have to coexist.”

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