City’s efforts curb close encounters with coyotes
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.”
In 2017, there were 994 reports of coyote encounters, with 183 of them considered aggressive, according to city statistics.