Keep pets close and don’t feed or feel sorry for coyotes: City

(Screenshot: City of Mississauga)
(Screenshot: City of Mississauga)

BY KELLY ROCHE

Three dogs have been attacked by coyotes this year – with one killed in Lorne Park – and the city is advising residents to keep close tabs on their pets this winter.

Coyotes are wild animals “and we have to respect that,” said animal services education officer Linda Dent.
“Do not feel sorry for them, do not offer food to them, and if they are attracted to something – say, your bird feeder – that needs to be removed” until the coyote stops coming around.
Regardless of location, “people have to remain vigilant about letting their dogs off-leash, even within their own yards, and especially smaller dogs,” said Ward 2 Coun. Karen Ras.
Multiple sightings have been reported at Woodeden Park and Rattray Marsh.

Coyotes are attracted to food sources and “if we see a pattern where a coyote is coming into, say a certain residential area, over and over and over again, there’s usually a good reason because they’re looking for food,” said Dent.
Bird feed may attract rodents and other critters, which can then draw predators into residential areas.
That has pet owners such as Jay, who didn’t give a last name, concerned.
Jay owns a small dog which normally goes out in the backyard.
Keeping an eye on him is easier said than done since “he’s about the size of a squirrel. He chases after everything,” said Jay, adding coyotes are terrifying.
“I don’t know why you would feed them.”
Excluding song birds, residents can be fined up to $5,000 for feeding wildlife.
Grasshoppers, amphibians, and berries are appealing to coyotes, and in the fall, reports of coyotes feasting on fallen apples isn’t uncommon, said Dent.
Season aside, garbage day “is definitely an attraction,” said Dent.
Putting trash at the curb in the morning is ideal; feeding coyotes causes aggression to humans.
The more human interactions they have “where it doesn’t lead to a negative experience for the coyote, then they become more tolerant and we don’t want any escalation in that area,” said Ras.
Mississauga’s natural corridors, said Ras, are used by coyotes “as their own highway to get around.”
And it sounds like they’ve been putting in extra miles.
Reports of coyote sightings in urban areas has increased citywide in 2015.
“A lot of them are during evening hours, when it’s dark out, or morning hours, or overnight,” said Dent, noting that’s typically when dogs and cats relieve themselves outdoors.
An estimated 230 reports were filed this year. The average number falls between 150 to 200, said Dent, and the majority of cases are general sightings.
She has a solid understanding of why.
“As we sort of wind up into the winter months, prey becomes more difficult to find,” said Dent.
“So they’re looking further afield from the natural areas for prey” beyond the usual mice and rabbits.
The uptick in reporting is likely seasonal, and doesn’t necessarily equal increased activity, Dent pointed out.
Factor in missing foliage, and “they’re much easier to see than they normally would be in the summertime when we have a lot of cover,” she said.
In addition, “the sightings could be based on one animal that’s very active, as opposed to many,” said Dent.
An educational campaign run by the city in 2014 – a year which saw attacks across the Greater Toronto Area – urged residents to notify the city of coyote sightings.
“We’re looking for abnormalities in the activity when we get those reports, and that will help us develop a strategy to address them,” Dent said.
Sometimes it’s as simple as negative conditioning and making the coyotes realize they’re not welcome.
“They shouldn’t feel very, very comfortable just hanging out,” said Dent.
Coyotes also shouldn’t be following you — phone 311 if you see one.

THREE INCIDENTS

  • A Lorne Park dog was killed after being let out in the early morning.
  • Two small dogs were attacked in the Eglinton/Erin Mills area. One was on a long, extended leash and the other went out at night. The owners were there, and made enough noise to scare off the coyote, which dropped the dogs. One dog suffered a minor puncture wound.

PROTECTING YOUR PETS

  • Keep cats indoors
  • Keep dogs on a short (five-inch) leash
  • Don’t allow your dog to chase wildlife
  • Check your property for wildlife before letting your pet outside
  • After dark or at dusk, take your pet out on a short leash
  • Do not house rabbits, fowl or other pets outdoors
  • Vaccinate your pet against rabies

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE A COYOTE

  • Stay calm
  • Back away
  • Don’t run
  • Clap, wave, stand tall, throw something, make loud noises to scare them off
  • Startle them by using a flashlight

WHAT TO NOTE BEFORE CALLING 311

  • Date/time
  • Location (backyard, in a natural area)
  • Do they look healthy?

(Source: City of Mississauga)

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