There are more wild animals walking amongst us than there are in cages at the Metro Zoo. Everything from foxes to deer can be found within our city limits. But perhaps the most misunderstood is the coyote.
Most of the time, we don’t see animals like coyotes because they prefer to stay clear of humans. But longer daylight hours signal the start of mating season, so your chances of spotting a bachelor male looking for a mate have just increased. According to Ralph Toninger, Supervisor, Environmental Projects for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, males will travel long distances in search of a mate. In fact, the TRCA just got word that a coyote, wearing a radio collar that indicated it was from Toronto, was just hit by a car in Hamilton.
It’s sad news considering that the local coyote population was almost wiped out in 2003 because of a mange epidemic. But they’re on the upswing again, which is a good thing—they help keep the populations of Canada geese, squirrels, raccoons, cottontail rabbits and feral cats in check. But not everybody is crazy about coyotes. At the turn of this century, local news was filled with scare-mongering stories about pet-snatchings caused by an encroaching coyote population.
Standing 58 to 66 cm high at the shoulder, and weighing about 9 to 23 kg, coyotes are the largest mammalian predators in the GTA. They thrive in the city’s many ravines, and along highways and golf courses, where they can enjoy a diet of small prey that’s easy to catch and carry off. The biggest misconception about them is that they are new to these parts, and as a non-native species, should be driven away. In truth, says Toninger, “they’ve been here almost as long as we have,” having arrived when Parkdale was a village.
As for coyotes being a threat to people and pets, says Toninger, “Usually people only have confrontations if they are out walking their dog in coyote territory.” He does cites an incident where a human was nipped by a coyote. “Upon further investigation, it turned out someone was feeding coyotes practically out of their hand,” he says. The coyote in question got accustomed to being fed, but one day there was no food. “It’s like if you put your money in the pop machine, but you don’t get your drink. You’re going to give the machine a bit of a body check to see if the can will drop.”
Basically, people can keep things peaceful by respecting, not fearing, these animals. “Most nuisance wildlife problems come from people feeding animals,” says Toninger. “They become adapted to being fed and they no longer see people as a threat.” You should also keep garbage well covered and avoid feeding pets outside as it can attract coyotes. If you live on the edge of a ravine, keep your backyard fenced in to keep wild animals out. Don’t leave pets unattended in the backyard and if you’re walking your dog—especially toy dogs in natural areas where coyotes may be protecting their cubs—keep it on a leash.
Photo by aperture_lag.