Coyote claims canine victim in Neville Park ravine

The coyote locals have cutely named ‘Neville’ displayed his decidedly un-cute – though predictably natural – behaviour recently, when he attacked a small dog owned by the family of Kingswood Road resident Chris Peters. Peters said he was in his back yard with his dog, when the coyote leapt out of the neighbour’s bushes, grabbed  Cujo, a small Maltese, and ran off into the woods.

“I was 10 feet away from him,” Peters said. “It literally took one second.”

Peters and his son gave chase, and the coyote dropped the dog, which came back to its owners so badly injured that the vet recommended euthanasia. This is the second time that the coyote has attacked his dog. The first time was in 2009, shortly after a neighbour’s Chihuahua was taken. This recent attack marks the third on neighbourhood dogs since 2009.

As any owner of a beloved family pet can attest, the Peters family is devastated by the loss, but Chris himself takes a more practical approach, suggesting that if anyone in the area is putting out food for the coyote, they are only contributing to the animal’s boldness. According to Peters, the rules governing the trapping of wildlife differs between city and private property. Private homeowners can legally hire a trapper to trap the coyote. But since the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act prohibits the relocation of coyotes for a variety of reasons, including the animal’s own safety, trappers usually euthanize the animal. Peters is not advocating going that far with the Neville Park coyote. He would much rather see concerned residents make the animal uncomfortable and discourage it from their yards using other means, such as air horns or paintball guns.

Shannon Kornelsen, Director of Public Outreach and Humane Education for the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, works for an organization committed to humane urban wildlife management. She recognizes that pet owners are concerned about the possibility of losing their pets to a large predator right in their own back yard. She also understands that others in the area regard ‘Neville’ as a wonderful addition to the urban wildlife…and may be feeding it.

She said reports of a coyote running east along the beach on Feb. 24, “indicates to me that he’s being intentionally fed by someone.”

The animal seemed “spooked and skittery,” but was still out of its normal element. This, she explains, is not good for residents or the coyote.

She has been instrumental in establishing the Beach Coyote Coalition (BCC) to promote peaceful co-existence between residents and wildlife. So far, she reports that the BCC has heard from 20 to 25 people interested in getting involved. She hopes eventually to have ‘street ambassadors’ on every street in the area who can respond to coyote sitings, and offer residents ideas for discouraging it from returning.

This plan sits very well with Toronto Animal Services (TAS). Mary Lou Leiher of TAS says that the root of the problem is not the coyote itself, but how people in the area are reacting to it.

“We need to try to act as a community to re-program the coyote to be afraid of people,” she said. She echoed both Kornelsen and Peters, asking residents to stop feeding the coyote. “When people interfere with the natural order of things is when problems occur.”

This includes feeding it, dissuading others from ‘hazing’ it, and generally ‘Disney-fying’ it: treating this predator as if it is some beautiful, gentle giant that needn’t fear humans, nor we should be fearful of.

It’s a game that the coyote will lose if push comes to shove. If you are a pet owner, keep a very watchful eye on your pet, even to the point of walking it on a leash in the back yard. If you appreciate catching a fleeting glimpse of the coyote out your window, leave it at that. Don’t encourage it to come around – you aren’t doing it any favours, and you may be hastening its end.

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