Citing public safety, city staff have rejected one councillor’s call for a ‘no kill’ policy towards problem coyotes.
But this fall, council will consider a bylaw that fines anyone caught feeding coyotes $240 for a first offence and up to $5,000 for repeat offenders.
Scarborough Centre councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker asked last March for a new policy barring Toronto Animal Services staff from killing coyotes. De Baeremaeker made the request shortly after a police officer shot a coyote to death in Cabbagetown.
But after reviewing a 2004 study on the issue by Ontario’s leading public health officer, city staff concluded that if a coyote poses a real threat to people, TAS workers should be able to call in a hunter or trapper.
The staff report notes that coyote attacks on other animals are not usually a sign of a threat to people, since that is part of normal coyote behaviour.
Shannon Kornelson, founder of the Beach Coyote Coalition, says the no-kill policy was always unlikely.
“In fairness to Councillor De Baeremaeker, there would be no way he could enforce a no-kill policy for wildlife on the very, very remote chance there’s an animal who is sick or injured and is therefore posing a danger to people,” she said.
Kornelson welcomed news of a possible no-feeding bylaw. She said negative coyote encounters such as the February mauling of a small dog near Neville Park Boulevard almost always result from people feeding coyotes. A couple living close to where the dog was attacked told Kornelson they found pieces of raw chicken left on their lawn.
“Public education is really critical,” she said. “There’s a lot of evidence to show that as basic wildlife literacy goes up, unwanted incidents go down.”
Kornelson said that same is true for police. Video of the coyote shooting in Cabbagetown last winter shows the animal was trying to flee, she said, not behaving aggressively.
“I’m not trying to demonize the police,” she said. “That’s not within their training. But again, that’s something that will hopefully change.”
Lesley Sampson, founder of Coyote Watch Canada, ran coyote-hazing workshops with Kornelson in the Beach last spring. She recently spoke at an Ontario police conference about how coyotes behave and who officers can call when they get a coyote complaint.
“You give those officers the brochures, you give them the tools to haze a coyote, to at least identify what it means when their ears are down and a coyote is pacing,” she said. “They just weren’t there yet.”
Fiona Venedam, a supervisor with Toronto Animal Services’ emergency response unit, said the main idea behind the city’s response strategy to make sure people know not to feed coyotes.
Toronto already has parks and littering bylaws that could be used to fine anyone feeding a coyote, but she said a targeted no-feeding bylaw would send a clearer message. Hamilton, Mississauga and Whitby recently adopted such bylaws.
The update also adds wildlife groups such as Coyote Watch Canada and the Beach Coyote Coalition to the list of experts the city can consult about whether a particular coyote poses a threat, she said, noting biologists, veterinarians and wildlife managers at the Ministry of Natural Resources remain their primary contacts.
For more about coyotes in Toronto, visit toronto.ca.
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