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Coyote sightings rise in Canada this spring amid COVID-19

Sunday, April 4th 2021, 11:29 am - Coyotes in residential areas have received heightened attention in recent weeks, says the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

With more Canadians retreating to the outdoors during the pandemic to seek stress relief, it's inevitable they would also come across more wildlife.

Many Canadians have reported seeing and hearing more wildlife in their neighbourhoods during COVID-19, and according to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC)'s senior conservation biologist, Dan Kraus, it's because we are spending more time near home and in local parks.

As such, coyotes in residential areas have received heightened awareness in recent weeks.

SEE ALSO: Canadians explore nature more to relieve COVID-19 pandemic stress

"During busier times when we are constantly on the move, many of us tend to be hurrying to get somewhere and fail to notice that wildlife is all around us," said Kraus, in a news release.

He said it is a "good sign" that people are becoming more aware of wildlife and their annual life cycles. While coyotes are generally more active during their mating season in the winter, spring is when they are searching for dens to house their pups, so seeing them at this time of year is not uncommon.

Coyote/Paul Turbitt Seeing coyotes in the spring is not uncommon, but they should never be approached. Photo: Paul Turbitt.

STAY AWAY FROM COYOTES

However, coyotes, as with all wildlife, should only be viewed from a distance and never approached. Although they are generally shy and would prefer to avoid confrontations with humans, coyotes can become habituated to people and become aggressive, Kraus added.

“Early spring is when coyotes are very actively looking for food. They play an important role in the urban ecosystem by controlling rodent populations and eating carrion. It’s an amazing experience to watch a coyote sitting patiently in a meadow or park, and then pouncing to capture mice and voles. Unfortunately, coyotes that are injured, starving, young or have been fed by people can come into conflict with people,” said Kraus.

Despite past population control measures, coyotes have actually expanded their range, even adapting to live in the "downtown cores of our cities," the senior conservation biologist said.

"They offer a unique opportunity to experience nature where we live. But we need to remember that real nature is not a Disney film. These are wild animals and need to be treated with respect so we can peacefully co-exist,“ said Kraus.

Coyote/Photo by Allison Haskell Photo: Allison Haskell.

Kraus offers the following tips to people to keep themselves and their pets safe:

  • Feed your pets inside and keep them indoors. Do not leave pets unattended or unprotected outdoors
  • Keep dogs on a leash when going for walks
  • Make sure garbage, pet food or compost is not left outside
  • Keep garbage containers sealed and locked
  • Close off spaces under porches, decks and sheds to prevent wildlife from seeking shelter or dens

IF YOU ENCOUNTER A COYOTE OR OTHER WILDLIFE

He also has helpful information for people who encounter a coyote or any wildlife while in public or on their property.

  • Do not approach, do not try to feed, touch or to photograph the animal from close distances
  • If you encounter a coyote and it does not flee, remain calm and slowly back away, and leave the area in the direction where you came from
  • Never run from a coyote, or any wildlife, as it may trigger a predatory response and give chase
  • Use personal alarm devices — such as a whistle, bell or phone to frighten or threaten the animal

  • If the animal exhibits aggressive behaviour, then make yourself larger and noisier by raising your arms and voice
  • If, in the rare case, the animal continues to approach, throw rocks or sticks in its direction
  • Landowners unable to deal with coyotes that repeatedly show signs of aggression or habituation should contact the police or their local natural resources department

Thumbnail courtesy of Paul Turbitt.

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