Thursday, July 12, 2001 

Brush Wolf (Coyote)
Canis latrans

Shoot coyotes if necessary: Owen

Following attack on toddler, Vancouver's mayor says it is time to take strong action

Jeff Lee and Glenn Bohn
with files from Jeremy Sandler

Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen wants to eliminate coyotes from Vancouver — by tranquillizing and relocating them if possible, but by shooting them if necessary.

"I know people won't like me saying this, but if we can't tranquilize them and drive them 500 miles out into the bush, then we should destroy them," Owen said Wednesday in an interview.

"I think it's time we do something about this, and I'm asking staff to look at trapping and moving them out so that we don't have these kinds of conflicts again."

The conflict he referred to was a coyote attack Monday night on 14-month-old Ruth Chan as she sat on her family's front lawn in the 2900-block of West 22nd.

Ruth's older sister Anna Chan, 17, said her mother was gardening and the baby was playing when her mother "felt something was running behind her, like there was shadow or something, real quick, and then my mom turned around and saw this coyote running toward the baby.

"As my mom got up and walked towards her and yelled, [it] bit her, he just pushed her down to the ground and my mom just kicked it and it walked slowly away."

Anna said Ruth was so scared that she neither cried nor moved. "When my mom picked her up and she saw my mom, she started to cry so hard."

The toddler received 10 stitches in her cheek and spent two nights in hospital, but Anna said she is fine now.

The Chans, who have lived in the neighbourhood for about a year, will no longer even turn their backs on Ruth when they are outside, said Anna.

And they think something must be done about the coyotes.

"My mom doesn't want the same thing to happen to any other people," Anna said.

"If you can kill them all, it's better, because they are not pets, they are wild animals and it's not good to keep them in living areas, it's quite dangerous."

On Wednesday, two B.C. conservation officers returned to the neighbourhood to try to locate and shoot the coyote.

Dennis Pemble and a colleague couldn't find the animal, but they talked to a man who said a woman regularly leaves butcher shop bones at the side of trails in Pacific Spirit regional park, less than a mile away.

"It sounds like somebody's feeding coyotes out there, which is not a good idea," Pemble said. "They're not doing the coyote a favour, because if it gets bold and causes problems, it will be shot."

Owen's proposal to relocate or kill urban coyotes is at odds with the management approach of Co-Existing With Coyotes, a public education program funded by the city of Vancouver, the park board and the B.C. government.

The program, run by the Stanley Park Ecology Society, encourages residents to reduce conflicts between coyotes, people and pets by never feeding coyotes deliberately, or doing so unintentionally by leaving pet food outside.

The existing city and provincial policy for managing urban coyotes is to remove or kill only aggressive coyotes — the wild animals that lose their fear of humans after becoming dependent on human food sources.

But Owen said he believes the city should go further and try to get rid of the animals entirely.

He said he favours a proposal by Councillor Sandy McCormick and the park board to hire a deputy wildlife control officer to handle complaints of aggressive wildlife in the city. But he said the program won't start soon enough, so he's interested in alternatives in the meantime.

The city of Glendale in the Los Angeles urban region tried the same thing 20 years ago, when a coyote killed a two-year-old child.

Glendale police Captain Michael Post said that death remains the only reported lethal attack by a coyote on a human in North America and was linked to deliberate feeding of coyotes.

Post, who began dealing with coyotes then and has been the department's expert on coyotes ever since, said the death triggered demands for the elimination of all coyotes from the city.

He said trained teams of sharpshooters were sent into adjacent natural lands where coyotes lived. The coyotes were baited and shot, but survivors produced large litters and the population rebounded.

"As extensive and as controversial as that program was, six months later it was like we had never done it," he said. "With coyotes, the old saw about nature abhorring a vacuum is applicable."

For the past five years, Glendale has emphasized public education. There have been no attacks on people in Glendale since the mid-1980s.

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Last modified: March 31, 2002

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