Saturday, April 29, 2000. p. A6. 

Brush Wolf (Coyote)
Canis latrans

WILY CITY COYOTE: Animal makes its way along Cypress near West 41st in Vancouver.
WILY CITY COYOTE: Animal makes its way
along Cypress near West 41st in Vancouver.

p. A6.

Brazen coyotes blamed on well-meaning people

One animal in Vanier Park is becoming aggressive and may have to be shot.

Ken MacQueen

Well-meaning people feeding a problem coyote in Vancouver's Vanier Park are signing its death warrant, warns a provincial wildlife control officer who may have to shoot the animal.

Dennis Pemble of the provincial ministry of environment lands and parks says this has been a busy spring in Greater Vancouver for missing pets and other reports of problem coyotes.

In most cases, the estimated 2,000 to 3,000 coyotes in the Lower Mainland keep their distance from humans. However, one animal in Vanier Park has grown increasingly aggressive, nipping a little girl last week and chasing and killing some dogs.

"We're getting quite concerned. It's very aggressive towards people," Pemble said Friday.

"It tride killing a lady's dog just the other day. She managed to pick it up, but it followed her. She had to go into the [Maritime] museum to get away from it."

Problem coyotes are impossible to catch in live traps and shooting is a last resort, said Pemble, who last shot a coyote three years ago in Burnaby.

"Unfortunately, if it keeps causing all these problems with people's pets and aggression toward people, it's going to be put down."

Conservation and parks officials in the Lower Mainland say the rising number of complaints this year really reflects a people problem, rather than a problem with coyotes.

People are feeding the wild memberss of the dog family — sometimes deliberately, sometimes with accidental gifts of pet cats or dogs.

There are even stories of coyotes so crafty they've learned to scare children into dropping their school lunches.

"They're smart and they're fast and they'll take what they can get," says Mike Mackintoch, whose duties with the Vancouver parks and recreation include wildlife issues.

Mackintosh has nothing but admiration for the coyote, for its intelligence and adaptability.

"But in the last couple of years, we're beginning to notice increasing numbers of sort of bad coyote-human interactions of the type where people are bitten or frightened," said Mackintosh.

"It all comes back to the same problem. People, people, people," he said."People just don't get it. Leave wild animals alone … they're perfectly capable of making a living, that's why they're here."

Indeed, rats and mice are staples of the urban coyote's diet. "In the city, that should be considered an advantage," said Mackintosh.

Parks board officials held a meeting Thursday to discuss growing public concern with the animals, agreeing to launch a public information campaign urging people and pets to keep their distance from coyotes.

Liz Thunstrom of the Burnaby-based Wildlife Rescue Association said attempts to eliminate urban coyotes in other jurisdictions have been ill-advised and ineffectual. The surviving coyotes merely have larger litters in subsequent years.

Vancouver park board commissioner Roslyn Cassells said coyotes should not be killed under any circumstances.

"To solve our human problem we kill animals that are innocent."

Cassells, a member of the Green party, said the urban coyote is a "free spirit" that has every right to exist, even if it dines on the occasional pet.

Cassells says she keeps her cats indoors from dusk to dawn.

Dont feed the coyotes

Keeping coyotes at bay:

  • Do not feed coyotes, or leave food outside for pets.
  • Clean up garbage and keep it in covered containers.
  • Repel coyotes with "negative reinforcement" — by shouting, acting aggressively or by banging or throwing tin cans.
  • Notify the ministry of environment if there is an attack on a human. In the Lower Mainland, 582-5200. Or for emergency after-hours reports, 1-800-663-9453.
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