Coyotes may have been unwittingly welcomed into community, says MNR

Section: 
News

By Barb McKay

 

The reason Kincardine is dealing with an urban coyote problem could be because the animals have been “welcomed” to the community, according to a wildlife specialist.

 

 

This coyote was spotted last week near Boiler Beach Road. There have been numerous sightings by residents in that area. (photo submitted by Cherly Murray)

 

Over the past two weeks, an increasing number of coyote sightings and attacks on small dogs have been reported to provincial officials, to the municipality and to local media. The Independent has received numerous phone calls, emails and visits from residents who have spotted coyotes or coyote tracks outside their homes and in their neighbourhoods.

 

Jody Scheifley, fish and wildlife technical specialist at the Owen Sound regional office of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), told The Independent on Monday that he too has received a number of phone calls from residents who have had encounters with coyotes that were close enough to make them feel uneasy.

 

Scheifley said that the fact that coyotes are moving from their territory in the wild into urban settings is no coincidence.

 

“Somewhere along the line they have received tremendous food rewards,” he said. “People welcoming the coyote into the neighbourhood started the problem.”

 

Scheifley said coyotes are extremely intelligent animals and very adaptive. Once they find an easy food source they will keep coming back to it as long as it is available. He said coyotes will work up the courage to approach homes where pet food dishes are kept outside and eat dog or cat food. In some cases, Scheifley said, food is deliberately left to coyotes.

 

The MNR suggests keeping pet food indoors and not allowing small dogs and cats outdoors by themselves at night. Building a fence at least two metres high and buried in the ground can also work to keep coyotes out of residential properties.

 

Marion Emmerton knows all too well how close a coyote will come to homes. She recently lost her Chihuahua after it was taken from her yard on Boiler Beach Road by a coyote. Over the past week, she has seen paw prints just a couple of feet from her front door. She figures that the animals are curious about her outdoor Christmas decorations. Coyotes have also been spotted numerous times near her neighbour’s home. “I would say it is stalking them because they have a small dog,” she said.

 

Cheryl Murray, who lives near Heritage Heights, had an unnerving experience last week as she walked her eight-year-old granddaughter to her bus stop at Kennedy Road and Waterloo Street. The pair came up on a coyote, little more than 10 feet away. In an email to The Independent, Murray said she and her granddaughter yelled at the animal, as is recommended by the MNR, but instead of turning away, the coyote started to walk towards them. The pair ran home.

 

Murray said, on many occasions, her granddaughter has walked to the bus stop on her own.

 

“If she had walked by herself that morning, I shudder at what might have happened.”

 

During its Nov. 20 meeting, Kincardine council decided it would extend an invitation to the MNR to come and discuss the coyote situation. Scheifley said he will be attending the Dec. 18 council meeting. Kincardine CAO Murray Clarke said the municipality is currently investigating its options to deal with coyotes that have taken up residence in the community.

 

“We are doing our homework,” he said. “We know we have the option to engage a licensed trapper or hunter within the municipality. Not withstanding concerns and public safety, which is significant, we have to know the implication of bringing someone in with firearms.”

 

According to the MNR website, “municipalities may use or employ licensed hunters or trappers to harvest furbearing mammals to help resolve coyote conflicts within their municipal boundaries without obtaining approval from MNR.” However, municipalities are encouraged to look at preventative measures first and lethal action should be a last resort.

 

The Independent passed along the contact information for Bill Easton, of Easton Wildlife Management Services, to the municipality. Easton’s comments about managing coyotes appeared in last week’s edition of the paper. Murray said he would be in contact with the wildlife control officer.

 

For information about coyotes, how to handle encounters and how to protect pets, visit http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/FW/2ColumnSubPage/STDPROD_088694.html.