STANLEY WOODS’ CRITTERS: Vancouver Province 
Tuesday, December 19, 2000 

Brush Wolf (Coyote)
Canis latrans

Coyote lunges at preschooler playing on city school ground

I was really scared: Childcare worker who ran for child, 3

By Gordon Clark

A coyote stalked, then charged a little boy yesterday in the playground of Southlands Elementary School, ignoring the child's attendant who ran towards it yelling.

Bruce Cox, Lower Mainland regional enforcement manager for the Environment Ministry, said the coyote will need to be shot.

"This is very serious," he said. "If that parent hadn't been there, it sounds like that kid would have been bitten."

The stalking occurred at 10 a.m. at the Vancouver school when five children and two child-care workers from Creative Minds Child Care went outside to play.

One of the children, a three-year-old boy with special needs, went off alone to play in the sand under the watchful eye of Wendy McPhail, an early childcare practitioner.

"The coyote was very bold," she said, recalling the scary moment. "I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought it was a dog.

"It started to walk toward the child, trotting. I'm yelling and clapping my hands and it is getting closer and closer to the child.

"When it got about five feet away it started to charge and dipped its head."

The animal veered off when it was less than a metre from the boy, McPhail said, because she had by then sprinted to within arm's reach of the boy. "My mother instinct went into mode and I was really scared," she said.

McPhail said the animal lingered in the schoolyard, even though she continued to chase it and yell, until she scared it back into the adjacent forest of Pacific Spirit Park.

McPhail, who has two children of her own at Southlands, said she is worried for the kids' safety.

Southlands principal Ted Neighbor said he sent a note home to parents last night about the incident and encouraged them to lobby wildlife officials to ensure the animal is dealt with.

"Sooner or later someone is going to be badly bitten," he said.

"We need public pressure, I suggested to our [parent advisory council] people. They need to think about it. It is their community and their children."

Cox said coyotes in Vancouver have lost their natural fear of humans because too often they associate food with human contract. When they don't get food, they can become aggressive, he said.

Shooting the animals is the only way to deal with them, he added, because coyotes are too clever to be captured in live traps, and using poison or leg-hold traps can harm cats and dogs.

Cox said his office gets lots of calls from people complaining of coyote attacks on their pets and, occasionally, children.

"This sounds like one we should deal with," Cox said.

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Created: March 31, 2002
Last modified: March 31, 2002

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