In the neighbourhood of Twin Brooks in south Edmonton, councillor Jennifer Rice said coyotes have become an issue.
Rice, councillor for ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi, noted it’s their aggressive behaviour that’s worrisome.
“They’re not afraid of human beings anymore,” she said.
“They’re starting to approach human beings and follow us — that is what I heard.”
There’s brand new signage in that area, warning people about coyote sightings.
Recently, one attacked two dogs while they were out on a walk — badly injuring them, according to Rice.
There’s ongoing research out of the University of Alberta (U of A) looking at how to manage urban coyotes.
A recent study shows aversive conditioning — also known as hazing — is an effective deterrent.
In other words, make coyotes fearful of people.
“The idea is we subject animals to something they find aversive and they learn to avoid people or the places where people occur because of it,” U of A biological sciences professor Colleen Cassady St. Clair said.
St. Clair runs the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project. She documents sightings and the animals’ behaviour.
Last year, volunteers across dozens of Edmonton neighbourhoods saw coyotes 64 times and and found they receded when approached by people 80 per cent of the time.
“They did that every time people subjected them to aversive conditioning by chasing them and throwing a tennis ball at them,” St. Clair explained.
St. Clair noted urban coyotes are becoming more common — they’re also getting bolder.
“People are seeing them more often in places they didn’t used to see them,” she said.
“Coyotes are adapting to living with us. They’re really smart animals and they are able to figure out most of the time we’re pretty harmless.”
Urban coyotes can get in conflict with people in a few different ways, according to St. Clair.
One of them is with pets.
“Sometimes they prey on small dogs they even jump into yards to get them — they take a lot of cats that are at large,” she explained.
They’ve also bitten people. She noted last summer in Vancouver 45 people reported being bitten by a coyote.
“That’s completely unprecedented in North America — there’s never been a year with so many bites in one location,” St. Clair said.
She thinks it mostly has to do with food conditioning.
To keep the animals away, she said to make sure there’s nothing for them to get into and eat — like compost or garbage.
To protect your property and your pets, build a tall fence.
St. Clair said they are hoping to recruit and train more volunteers to take part in the field study next year.
As for Rice, she said it’s an issue she’ll keep looking into while bringing more awareness to her community.