Stephanie MacIntyre and her dog Luna were out for a routine walk in the Forest Heights neighbourhood Sunday night when she says they were suddenly surrounded by a snarling pack of coyotes.
The incident happened around 9:30 p.m. in Forsland Park.
MacIntyre said she saw something grey up ahead of them. In the dark, she thought at first it was a rabbit.
“All of a sudden I was approached by another dog. I was looking for its humans.”
She says things escalated quickly from there, when she bent down towards the animal.
“Reached out and it just went poof! Growling and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s not a dog at all! That’s a coyote,'” MacIntyre said.
“That’s when I heard the growling behind me, and felt one of them brush past my leg.”
As she turned around, she found herself surrounded by five or six coyotes.
“So I started screaming like a banshee. Kicking, screaming and charging at them, because they continued to come at us.”
MacIntyre said she channeled her past experiences in mosh pits at metal concerts and reacted aggressively, instead of being scared.
“I put on a heavy metal yell and I started growling back at them. As they were coming at me, I was charging at them, until they finally started to skedaddle. Then we got outta there.”
Thankfully, MacIntyre said neither her, nor Luna – a border collie- sized dog – were hurt. But they were shaken up.
“We see lots of coyotes around, I’ve just never seen them be that brazen.”
Professor Colleen Cassady St. Clair says this is the worst time of year for encounters with coyotes.
“It’s pup-rearing season for coyotes and that’s when they are maximally defensive of the whole area around their den site. Dogs definitely attract coyotes as potential threats to their pups,” she said.
The University of Alberta Biological Sciences professor added coyotes can also see larger dogs as prey competitors.
St. Clair said Forsland Park is also in a neighbourhood that’s historically seen a lot of coyote activity due to its proximity to the river valley and the Capilano Ravine.
“Coyotes might be denning in a natural area in either of those locations and still claim that park as part of their territory.”
She says through the Urban Coyote Project, reports have shown an increase in the boldness of coyotes in Edmonton — something being seen across North America.
“That means people should be upping their game a little bit, being more prepared when they’re out walking — especially with their dog.”
St. Clair suggests people avoid walking at dawn or dusk in areas known to have coyotes, or travel in groups, with a stick, hiking pole or umbrella.
“I recommend carrying things to throw. We’ve been using tennis balls that we weight with sand to make them heavier, like a baseball. But rocks would do, or any other small object,” she said.
“It’s really important not to run. That induces — in any coursing or chasing predator, like coyotes — an instinctual urge to chase.”
She thinks MacIntryre did a lot of things right when she was surrounded.
“She stood her ground and she acted aggressively towards the coyotes. That’s really helpful in teaching the coyotes that they can’t dominate people.”
But the ordeal won’t prevent the pair from going on walks in the area.
“I’ll probably have to start walking with a walking stick or a staff or something,” MacIntrye said.