Experts investigate coyote attacks in western GTA
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A rash of recent coyote attacks on dogs and humans in the GTA has sent up “red flags” for coyote experts, sending them to the western suburbs to investigate.
Coyote Watch Canada, a non-profit wildlife advocacy and education organization, will head to Burlington, Mississauga and Brampton this week to meet with city officials, conduct on-site investigations and offer suggestions for coyote management.
“The individual incidents themselves, that’s the red flag that there’s a state of chaos right now,” said Lesley Sampson, founding executive director of Coyote Watch Canada. “Something’s happened and there’s been a change in coyote behaviour.”
Sampson said the recent suspected coyote attacks, including four on dogs in Mississauga and two on humans in Brampton, according to Mississauga News, are not commonplace and require thorough investigation.
Sampson will meet with Burlington city officials Tuesday and with Brampton and Mississauga officials on Thursday.
The meetings will help Sampson understand the extent of the coyote interactions and offer solutions, she said. Afterwards, she’ll head out into the bush to investigate coyote habitat — “that gives us a really solid idea of what food items are (accessible to coyotes) and where they are,” she said.
Following a 2012 coyote attack on an Oakville girl in her backyard, Coyote Watch Canada searched a ravine near her home, finding fresh bread and dog food, presumably laid out for the animals, Sampson said.
“That situation was preventable,” she said, adding that some residents may put out food, thinking coyotes are stray dogs.
“Its not acceptable behaviour for a coyote to lie in your backyard,” Sampson said. “You need to send that clear message; the welcome mat is not here.”
Sampson said both coyotes and humans need to adjust as infrastructure expands into wooded or grassy areas. Residents should remove overflowing bird feeders, keep pets inside at night, remove outdoor compost, wait until morning to put out garbage and keep dogs leashed, she said.
For Maggie Kubat, whose beloved Yorkshire terrier was recently killed after being ripped from its leash by a suspected coyote near her Mississauga home, upcoming investigations are no consolation.
“The damage has been done to my family,” she said. “I understand animals are animals but I’m not willing to share my piece of land with them.”
Sampson said changing behaviours will take time but are necessary for long-term solutions, she said. Trapping or killing coyotes are insufficient solutions, Sampson said. “It’s lethal and it makes people feel good right off the bat but coyotes are going to fill that niche,” she said.
Communities need to track sightings, said Sampson, adding that Brampton, Mississauga and Burlington are working on creating coyote response teams.
As for residents who feel immediately threatened, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources said residents should call 911 but added: “a landowner may take actions to deal with problem wildlife without prior approval, including capturing, killing or harassing coyotes to prevent damage to themselves, their property or their pets.”