Watch out for coyotes

Sightings in Don Mills have experts suggesting caution

Urban animal officials are warning that recent coyote sightings in Don Mills could increase as the canines hunt for food and shelter this winter.

When temperatures drop and trees become bare coyotes tend to venture closer to urban environments in search of food, said Eletta Purdy, manager at Toronto Animal Services.

Should you come across a coyote in your backyard or on your property, Purdy says the most important thing to remember is do not feed it. Sometimes people inadvertently leave out a food source in the form of litter, and if the coyote links the food source with
humans they become less fearful of them.

Toronto Wildlife Centre executive director Nathalie Karvonen says feeding the coyotes not only brings them closer to residential areas but also changes their behaviour, which is not good for any wild animal.

Pet owners are cautioned to keep a close eye on pets as smaller dog breeds and cats can be seen as prey by coyotes.

If you’re going for a walk in a place where there may be coyotes its worthwhile to carry a loud, audible device like a whistle or a small air horn because the animals startle easily, Purdy says.

It is also recommended to carry an umbrella.

“If you have an encounter you want to make yourself look bigger,” Purdy said, adding opening the umbrella not only increases your size but also startles the animal.

People encountering a coyote should not turn run away, she warned. “It elicits a chase response from the coyote, not that they necessarily want to hunt you, they just want to see what’s going on or think it’s a game.”

Purdy also suggests small dogs should be kept on a leash outdoors and cats should remain inside.

Residents should also make good use during the winter.

If it’s deserted, there is a higher chance coyotes will feel more comfortable moving through the space because they see no human activity.

Though these animals have gotten a bad rap lately, people are more likely to be injured by lightening than by a coyote, Karvonen said.

“Coyotes are not a safety issue for people … they generally want to stay away from us.”

About this article:

By: Nicole Miller
Posted: Dec 4 2009 4:08 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto