Coyotes! It’s time, (once again), to set the record straight

Brampton has been all over the news in the last two days because a family of coyotes have chosen a school yard as a place to hang out. Recent sightings on the property of Our Lady of Peace Separate School prompted staff to keep students inside during recess over the past few days. Concerned parents are asking the City to remove the coyotes by trapping or culling as they fear the coyotes present a threat to their children’s safety. While somewhat understandable, this reaction is unfortunate and the action called for would likely be ineffective.

Recognize that coyotes live amongst us in urban settings mostly because we continue encroaching on their natural habitat. Expansion of urban boundaries impacts wildlife both in and around areas of development, forcing the animals to change their habits to adapt or perish. As a result we may see wildlife in places they’ve never been before. More likely though, the change results in the reduction of sightings that were once common. Increasingly, reduced population numbers lead to species’ extinction and the loss of biodiversity.

Fortunately, for both them and us, coyotes are intelligent and adaptable. They have learned to live and thrive in the proximity of humans. For the most part, they do so with little or no conflict and provide benefits by preying on nuisance and disease carrying animals such as rats and mice.

They are also territorial and will mark their property both by vocalizing, (barking yipping and, howling), as well as with scat and urine to notify other coyotes to stay away. Coyotes also use vocalization as part of hunting and family communication.

If coyotes are removed from an area, their untended territory is an invitation for other coyotes to move in and set up shop. It’s far more effective therefore to “train” the existing residents to keep humans at a distance. This is done by “aversion conditioning”, at technique using shouting, banging of pots, or other loud noises to demonstrate that the coyote is not welcome in that area. As a last resort, objects can be thrown, “toward” rather than directly at the animal.

Typically coyotes are not a threat to humans or pets. They will usually slink off when confronted with aversion conditioning techniques. If, however, small pets or animals are left unattended in a back yard, coyotes could confuse them with standard prey such as a rabbit or racoon. Unleashed larger dogs are usually considered a threat and will be greeted with aggression, especially from a coyote mother who feels her pups are being threatened. Of course, any food left outside will be an attractant to coyotes. They have lots of hope and long memories. Once they’ve found a food source, they will return to the same spot hoping for a reprise.

Late winter and early spring is when coyotes breed. That is when they are most active and visible. That is when most complaints about coyote activity are received.

It should be remembered that this is all part of the natural cycle. As long as the animal appears healthy and is not acting aggressively, sighting one of these beautiful, majestic creatures should be perceived as a gift rather than a cause for undue concern. Give them space and respect and it is likely they will do the same. Check out, Coyote Watch Canada, for more information about peacefully coexisting with coyotes.

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