Aggressive coyotes have forced Alberta Parks to partially close an area of Fish Creek Provincial Park.
An incident between a pair of coyotes and a man walking his leashed dog took place last Thursday morning. The dog was reportedly bitten by one of the coyotes and the man managed to fight it off with a stick.
According to an advisory on the Alberta Parks website, the area of Fish Creek Park from the intersection of Parkside Green SE and Parkside Drive SE to Parkvista Crescent SE has been closed until further notice.
Why a coyote might attack
Fish and Wildlife Officer Matthew Michaud says these types of coyote encounters are rare, but they can happen, especially at this time of year. He says many coyotes have pups right now and can be defensive.
“Occasionally, when we do have incidents or conflicts with coyotes in the city involving them stalking or following people, it’s almost always when they have domestic pets with them, usually dogs,” Michaud says.
Coyotes are more likely to get into scuffles with dogs at off-leash parks compared to dogs kept nearby and on a leash, explains Michaud, adding attacks on people are extremely rare.
“From my experience, when somebody is bit or nipped at, it’s almost always when they’re trying to defend their domestic pets from the animal,” Michaud explains.
“And extremely rare occasions where they might go after a person who doesn’t have a dog with them or anything like that. That’d be very unusual.”
Coyotes are important to Calgary’s ecosystem
Due to Calgary’s many interconnected parks and green spaces, coyotes are well-established residents who are important to the city’s ecosystem, Michaud explains, adding the animals can be found in pretty much every neighbourhood.
He says alleyways and backyards along garages are the perfect habitats for a coyote’s natural prey like rabbits, ground squirrels, and birds.
“Ultimately, the animals are going to go wherever their food and prey sources are, so you can see them pretty regularly even in the middle of a community,” Michaud says.
Since they are so common, coyotes are not considered public safety threats. However, Michaud says they are listed as an agricultural pest so the City of Calgary does mitigate and manage problems with coyotes showing aggressive or unusual behaviour.
Sightings comparable to last year
According to the City of Calgary, as of mid-May, there had been 758 reported coyote sightings compared to a little more than 700 by the same time last year.
As for bobcats, there were 472 sightings over the first four months of 2022, up from about 400 over the same period in 2021. Almost half of this year’s bobcat sightings happened in March alone.
Michaud says Alberta Fish and Wildlife receives a high number of calls about coyotes and bobcats, but they are much more interested in larger, less common wildlife.
He says it’s important to report sightings of moose, bears, and cougars so officials can assess the situation and determine if an animal needs to be relocated.
Education and coexistence
While most wildlife tends to avoid people, Michaud says it’s key for Calgarians to educate themselves in order to coexist with the critters that share the city.
“It’s important for people to be aware that although Calgary is a big city, we do have wildlife in our green spaces,” he says, adding people should always be aware of their surroundings.
Bear spray can be a highly effective defence tool against wildlife and Michaud recommends carrying it as a deterrent.
“If you had a coyote that was stalking somebody who might have been travelling on a path near a den site, using bear spray on that coyote might be all it takes to discourage an attack on your dog,” he uses as an example.
Michaud also advises making plenty of noise while in city green spaces and not running away if you come across a coyote, bobcat, bear, or cougar as that can trigger an animal’s chasing instinct.
Instead, you should make yourself look as big and intimidating as possible before backing away slowly.
To keep wildlife out of your yard, Michaud says decks and sheds should be closed off so they don’t become potential dens. Lastly, he says animals should never be cornered and if you try to scare one away, make sure it has an avenue of escape.
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