Removing coyotes is ineffective unless residents also change their behavior, says one coyote expert.
Coyote Watch Canada executive director Lesley Sampson said she understands the fears of the people of Garrison Village and believes their concern for the neighborhood is justified.
“The killing of coyotes, people want to jump on it and I get it. I totally understand it, but it’s not effective,” Sampson said in an interview on Tuesday.
Food is the only reason coyotes wander the streets of Garrison Village, she said.
“Once a coyote is navigating through a residential area, it is looking for food. They’re looking for food,” Sampson said.
She isn’t aware of anyone feeding the coyotes directly, but said direct feeding is almost always a factor in such scenarios.
But coyotes can become “food conditioned,” meaning they begin to associate a human settlement or humans as a food source, including through indirect feeding, Sampson said.
Indirect food sources for coyotes can include unattended trash, unsealed trash, pet food left outside, unsecured fruit trees or vegetable gardens, bird feeders, and even small outdoor pets like cats.
All of these sources must be addressed by residents to teach the coyote that it cannot find an easy meal in their neighborhoods, Sampson said.
A coyote often views a dog as a threat to its territory rather than a meal, and might attack the dog to defend what it perceives to be its home.
Sampson said it’s pretty clear that the coyote, who has become the star of numerous videos and images surrounding Garrison Village, was food conditioned and views Garrison Village as a simple meal card.
“All wildlife, especially canids, will conserve energy when foraging and hunting. A low energy output for the highest calorie gain is a bonus,” she said.
“Coyotes will return to the areas (where they find food) until they are shown otherwise. A coyote will not enter a residential area unless there is food.”
There is a seemingly simple solution.
“If there’s no food there, the coyotes have no reason to go there,” Sampson said.
“They won’t waste the energy because they need to eat to survive and if there isn’t, they’ll move on.”
A coyote foraging in a residential neighborhood may be scary for residents, but it is also dangerous and unhealthy for the coyote.
“The problem is that anthropogenic food is not healthy for wildlife, especially foods like carbohydrates and processed foods like cat/dog food, waste food that fills the stomach, with little nutritional gain or benefit. Like a fast-food drive-thru, someone offers plain food, and this coyote jumps at the opportunity,” Sampson said in an email.
Video was sent to Lake Report from Garrison Village showing a coyote pulling a white trash bag out of a recycling bin, showing it has developed a fondness for trash. Other similar videos were posted on Facebook.
Sampson said residents at Garrison Village needed to work together to de-escalate the situation. “It takes an entire community to change behavior.”
The inconvenient truth is that residents need to monitor their own neighbors to ensure all mitigating practices are being followed and that this could potentially fix the situation “overnight”.
“I just hope that the garbage situation and the cat feeding and the bird feeders are addressed quickly.”
Sampson said she was in Garrison Village about eight different mornings to spot the coyote herself and observe its behavior so she would know the best way to deal with it.
Despite the abundance of videos, to her great frustration, she has yet to see any.
“There are many unknowns, but one thing we know for sure: there are attractants that can be instantly mitigated.”
Sampson said the community can have the coyote killed if they wish.
But removing it without addressing the root causes means “we’re going to check that again.”
“Is that what a church wants to get involved in? This cycle of “let’s just kill them”. ”
And if the animal is killed, a passing coyote could quickly take its place and be attracted to Garrison Village for the same reasons as the dead coyote, she explained.
Sampson said there’s a problem with the way people understand the phrase “living with wildlife.”
“I think people think coexistence with wildlife is warm and fuzzy,” she said.
“That’s not what it is about. It’s about prevention. So you prevent negative encounters. They are also actively involved in this process of promoting wildlife resilience within the community.”
“That means you know what these animals are, how they behave and why they behave the way they do, and what we can do as a collective to change that behavior,” she said.
“And that starts with removing the food source.”
It’s important to note that this is generally their most active time of the year, according to Coyote Watch Canada, as coyotes are now at the end of their mating season and their birthing season is approaching.
Coyotes mate for life, and the removal of one parent puts the entire family at risk.
There has been at least one reported incident of aggressive coyote behavior in Garrison Village, where a coyote grabbed a small dog before releasing it. Coyote Watch Canada says incidents of coyotes chasing or tailing people shouldn’t be cause for great concern.
“Coyotes know everything about their territory. When raising families, coyotes will escort or tail visitors traveling through common spaces to ensure they vacate the area. A curious coyote, often misconstrued as “bold” or “bold,” may stop and observe visitors to assess potential threats to his or her family,” the organization says.
Extensive replanting and restoration work is currently underway in the Two Mile Creek area adjacent to Garrison Village. Sampson said it’s definitely possible that the disturbances there prompt the coyotes to forage in new areas.
However, she also emphasized that the availability of food in Garrison Village is the main reason.
Sampson said claims that the coyote was “fearless” weren’t accurate.
“Although people get the feeling that this coyote isn’t afraid of humans, this coyote isn’t sure what he or she should be doing, you can tell by the body language,” she said.
“I’ve been working with coyotes for over two decades, so it’s not hard for me to see that. But a resident honking a horn — well, a horn isn’t going to do much to a coyote because they live in an area where there’s constant honking and grape-cracking and noise.”
Sampson said people shouldn’t walk their small dogs on long retractable leashes because it makes the dog more vulnerable, as it’s no longer “part of the human” from the coyote’s perspective.
She said these types of leashes also make it harder to gain control of your dog when a coyote is around.
Sampson reiterated that she understands residents’ fears.
“It’s just awful and scary,” she said.
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