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Coyotes: Safe and Healthy Co-Existence is the Name of the Game

posted Feb 23, 2013, 7:20 PM by Ken Rahl   [ updated Mar 21, 2013, 8:14 PM by Kendrick Wong ]
Submitted By Ken Rahl

Earlier this year, The Legacy Voice ran an article on coyotes, helping to provide clarity on the wolf versus coyote debate and offering some helpful tips to prevent and manage coyote encounters. What started as speculation and infrequent sightings quickly evolved into much more. It seems we are now reaching a point of co-existence with coyotes – they can be heard howling most nights in the Markham Green Golf Course, and have been spotted on numerous occasions on pathways in Legacy

With the help of several very informative sources provided by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, City of Hamilton Animal Control Services and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, we believe it is time again to provide some helpful information about coyotes to reinforce the need for peaceful, healthy co-existence with these and other wild animals.

The simplest way to co-exist with coyotes is to use common sense.

It starts with PREVENTION. We know that there are families of coyotes living in the Rouge River Valley and Markham Green Golf Course. Generally, they are shy and avoid confrontation with humans, but let’s face it, at some point coyotes have to eat. Fortunately, rather than chasing your pets or small children, they are much more likely to be out at night looking to forage through your food waste. Still, they are wild animals so we cannot take anything for granted. Here are a few simple rules to keep in mind to minimize your interaction with this predator.

Feeding Coyotes

A simple word: Don’t. This suggestion ranges from the obvious – actually trying to feed them, to perhaps being a less obvious source of food.

- Please do not try to feed coyotes either directly (your backyard) or indirectly (by leaving or dumping food out around the golf course, etc.) Feeding, whether direct or indirect, can cause coyotes to act tame and over time may lead to bold behavior. Coyotes that rely on natural food items remain wild and wary of humans.

- Keep pet food inside the house. Feeding pets outdoors will attract coyotes, either to the food or to the pets! And mind that bird feeder! Seed that drops to the ground will attract small mammals, which will in turn attract coyotes.

- Secure your garbage (particularly if you store it outdoors). If you are what the City of Markham would consider a “good” recycler, you probably have only one source of smelly food waste: your green bin. So keep it secured during the week, and when you put it out, consider putting it out in the morning instead of the night before. If you do have to put it out overnight, try nestling it between your recycling bins or surrounded by yard waste bags, etc. to make the containers hard to get at and open.

Encountering Coyotes

Coyotes are carnivores with enough size to intimidate humans and threaten small pets and children. Prevention should be the first objective.

- Never leave children unattended (particularly at dusk and in open areas or areas exposed to wildlife). And while you have Junior right next to you, take a moment to educate children to not approach or harass wild animals or unfamiliar pets.

- Keep your pets on leashes, and if possible, avoid walking pets at or after dusk along the parkland areas. If you need to do so, see if you can find friends with pets to walk with, and equip yourself with a flashlight or an umbrella for visual distractions.

- If you do come across a coyote, stay calm and wait until they move on. Make noise to scare them off or use your flashlight or umbrella, but do not run away. Don’t hesitate to pick up small objects, such as a tennis ball or pop can, and throw them towards the coyote. Coyotes are naturally afraid of people and their presence alone is not a cause for concern, however depending on human-related sources of food, coyotes can become habituated. A habituated coyote may exhibit an escalation in bold behavior around people. Behaviors exhibited that indicate the coyote has lost its fear of people are when it (1) does not run off when harassed or chased, (2) approaches pets on a leash, and/or (3) approaches and follows people. Other dangerous situations may include encountering an injured coyote or other wild animal.

Coyotes represent a level of “wild animal threat” that tends to exceed most normal urban and suburban wildlife encounters. Large, angry raccoons and skunks come in a close second, but there is something about coyotes that seems to raise the level of concern, particularly in an area like Legacy. By applying some basic common sense, we should be able to comfortably co-exist with our new neighbours (or maybe we’re their new neighbours!)

To report an incident regarding wildlife in distress, or orphaned and/or injured wildlife please call the Ontario SPCA’s Wildlife Hotline at 1-888-ONT-SPCA (668-7722) ext. 386. (If you need to contact the OSPCA after hours for a life-saving emergency call 1-705-534-4350 and the phone system will direct you to an emergency contact.)

Additional source materials available are as follows:
Kendrick Wong,
Mar 21, 2013, 8:13 PM