A runner says she was “shaken” after sustaining a bite from a coyote on a Burlington trail near the city’s lakeshore in early August.
Kelly Zahavich says she encountered the wild animal on an early morning run three weeks ago near the Centennial Multiuse Trail at Seneca Avenue.
“We were very far away, so I turned to go down a different route and I looked behind me and it was chasing me,” Zahavich told Global News.
“I froze and then it started jumping on me and biting me.”
The jogger says she had trouble shaking the animal and was eventually helped by a nearby biker who rode directly at the coyote, scaring it way by pumping his brakes.
Fortunately, she says her bite wasn’t significant enough to require stiches.
Zahvich and her husband are so stunned by the experience that training for the New York Marathon is now on hold since she’s too afraid to run, let alone have her kids play outside. She had been using the trail five times a day.
“We were just starting to let our kids go to the park alone and now we’re not doing that,” Zahavich remarked.
Burlington’s mayor is assuring residents the problem with the coyote is no longer after being positively identified by animal control staff and “eliminated.” Marianne Meed Ward told Global News there were three separate attacks, which also included a two and half-year-old child in her own backyard.
“The father stepped away momentarily to get the child to get a glass of water and came out to the child screaming and bleeding from bite marks to her neck from this animal,” Meed Ward explained.
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“The father saw the coyote in the backyard. So very horrifying and unusual behaviour from a coyote.”
Images sent to Global News from the child’s parent showed two injuries behind both ears from the bite.
Meed Ward said an 18-year-old was also attacked while lying in the grass at the municipal lookout at the end of Market Street, south of Lakeshore Road.
“He felt a tug on her hair and turned to see a coyote which then bit and scratched her leg as she stood up,” she said.
Both victims were treated at Joseph Brant Hospital and released.
Dennis Murray, Canada research chair in integrative wildlife conservation at Trent University, says the animal’s behaviour was likely something that became conditioned once it opted to move into the area.
“Probably fed by people and therefore habituated to humans and was not afraid,” Murray said.
On Tuesday, city staff announced they were stepping up a campaign urging residents who see coyotes in their neighbourhood to report incidents online or through a call to the city’s animal control service.
“The City is working towards being more proactive to prevent attacks, including working with a community group from Burlington and Oakville,” communications officer Carla Marshall said.
They’re also warning of a $300 bylaw fine for anyone hand-feeding or ground-feeding wildlife on private or public property.
Burlington animal control’s advised residents to use “hazing techniques” for residents to shoo away coyotes include yelling loudly, waving arms, throwing small rocks and even spraying the animal with a garden hose or water gun filled with vinegar.
But Zahavich’s says residents should still be wary, as her attempts to yell and make herself big had little results with the predator she faced.
“That didn’t work, so I think people need to be aware,” said Zahavich.
Meed Ward says the city is continuing the investigation since the occurrence is “highly unusual” and assured advocates of wildlife that any idea “culling” coyotes in response to the attacks is not on the table.
“It is uncharacteristic and we are taking it very seriously,” said Meed Ward.
“We’ve eliminated this particular threat and long term we will be looking to understand how to better make sure that our residents are protected knowing coyotes are going to continue to live in our city.”