City’s ef­forts curb close en­coun­ters with coy­otes

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - SHAWN LO­GAN slo­[email protected] Twit­ter.com/ ShawnLo­gan403

Af­ter a year that saw a spike in close en­coun­ters with coy­otes, new city mea­sures im­ple­mented in 2018 have seen a re­duc­tion in dan­ger­ous run-ins with the an­i­mals, city of­fi­cials say.

But while city wildlife spe­cial­ists have adopted a pol­icy of peace­ful co­ex­is­tence, in one case they had no choice but to take lethal ac­tion against a prob­lem coy­ote that was part of a fam­ily whose ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour prompted the clo­sure of a large swath of park­land in north­west Cal­gary last spring.

Chris Man­der­son, ur­ban con­ser­va­tion lead with city parks, said that while on­go­ing haz­ing of the Hid­den Val­ley pack had the de­sired ef­fect on the mother and her pups, the male grew more ag­gres­sive, re­port­edly nip­ping a golfer ear­lier this year.

“We were start­ing to see the re­sponse we wanted from the fe­male and her pups, but the male started to show more ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour,” he said.

“We tried to ad­dress it to make them feel not wel­come, but it doesn’t al­ways work.”

De­spite that, Man­der­son said the city ’s more proac­tive ap­proach in deal­ing with coy­otes — both in how it deals with the an­i­mals as well as ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic — has seen the num­ber and sever­ity of en­coun­ters ebb in 2018.

While the city is still com­pil­ing an­nual stats, Man­der­son noted the busiest month last year for coy­ote run-ins was May, with 190 sight­ings, 55 of which were deemed ag­gres­sive.

In the same month this year, there were about 100 re­ported en­coun­ters, with only 20 of those con­sid­ered ag­gres­sive by those re­port­ing them. All told in 2017, there were 994 re­ports of coy­ote en­coun­ters, with 183 con­sid­ered ag­gres­sive.

Man­der­son said the city had to re­assess how it deals with coy­otes af­ter the prov­ince last year de­cided it would no longer deal with the an­i­mals if they were on city or pri­vate land.

“We were caught a lit­tle off guard last spring — the prov­ince said ‘we won’t be in­volved in coy­ote is­sues in the city any­more,’ ” he said.

“And then we had a cou­ple of things hap­pen last spring and early sum­mer that called a lot of at­ten­tion to it.”

Given that ex­pe­ri­ence, the city looked for a more sus­tain­able ap­proach, opt­ing for peace­ful co­ex­is­tence with ur­ban coy­otes.

“We know it didn’t make a lot of sense to start culling coy­otes,” said Man­der­son, not­ing their nat­u­ral sur­vival in­stincts would prompt them to breed more and see packs split up.

“So we took the ap­proach of co­ex­is­tence — coy­otes are here whether you like it or not, and they’re in the city.”

This spring, the city launched a pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign, call­ing on Cal­gar­i­ans to re­port sight­ings of coy­otes and other wildlife to 311, as well as to re­duce the num­ber of at­trac­tants on their prop­er­ties. Last month, in part­ner­ship with the As­so­ci­a­tion for the Pro­tec­tion of Fur-Bear­ing An­i­mals, in­for­ma­tion was de­liv­ered to 500 homes in ar­eas that have seen coy­ote ac­tiv­ity.

For ar­eas with par­tic­u­larly trou­ble­some coy­ote pop­u­la­tions, the city hired a con­trac­tor to “haze” them, said Man­der­son, build­ing up a healthy fear of hu­mans that can help re­duce the num­ber of dan­ger­ous en­coun­ters. Loud noises and, in some cases, a paint­ball gun were used.

While the num­bers so far in 2018 look promis­ing, Man­der­son noted fall can be a busy time for coy­ote en­coun­ters as well, with pups be­gin­ning to forge out on their own.

“We’re ex­pect­ing to see an uptick (in calls) in the fall be­cause the young ones are ex­pected to dis­perse,” he said.

“But we are see­ing some hope­ful re­sults so far.”

CITY OF CAL­GARY

In 2017, there were 994 re­ports of coy­ote en­coun­ters, with 183 of them con­sid­ered ag­gres­sive, ac­cord­ing to city sta­tis­tics.

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