Urban Coyotes

Although it can be hard to believe, coyotes do live very comfortably in urban areas like Essex County and even parts of Windsor. Seeing coyotes in a quiet neighbourhood often makes residents concerned about their safety, their pets’ safety, or the health of the coyote. If you see a coyote with a clear injury or major fur loss, please call the Humane Society at 519-966-5751, or Wings Wildlife Rehab Centre at 519-736-8172.

What should you do if you encounter a wild animal such as a coyote in your neighborhood?

• Ensure your dogs are always on leash and within reach. Monitor them during free play in the backyard.
• Keep cats indoors if possible. If you have a cat who goes outside, try to bring them in at night, and don’t feed them outside which can draw coyotes.  However, despite common misconceptions, coyotes prey on cats far less frequently than previously believed.  Read more here.
• Coyotes rarely pose a danger to people. They are often curious, and very used to people so don’t show a lot of fear or wariness. If you unexpectedly encounter a coyote in close quarters wave your arms, shout, and even throw objects to show it that you mean business. Most coyotes won’t take more than a second to high-tail it out of there if you put on an aggressive display. If a coyote is in your yard you can follow the same tips, as well as banging on a pot with a spoon or spraying them with a garden hose.  Click here for more tips on discouraging curious coyotes.

Remember as well that wild animals such as coyotes are amongst us because their natural environments are becoming fewer and far between. Urban locations offer food, shelter, and often lack other natural predators making them ideal hangouts for wild animals.

COYOTE FACTS (special thanks to Toronto Animal Services for compiling this information!):

1. COYOTES: There is only one type our area. Coywolf and Coyote are the same animal, known as the Eastern Coyote. Males are no more than 35ish lbs. Females are no more than 25ish lbs. They appear larger in winter, because they grow a very long winter coat.

2. HISTORY: The western Coyote travelled north and east about 100 years ago. It interbred with wolves AND dogs. It has both wolf and domestic dog DNA. Our own pet dogs have the same amount of wolf DNA as an Eastern Coyote.

3. CITY COYOTES: They may appear to be in large numbers, but they are actually not. Chances are, different people may report the same Coyote over several kms within a few hours, so it may seem like many different animals, when it’s only one. Urban environments are well-used by Coyotes, and have been for decades.

4. CITY COYOTE DIET: Poop gathered regularly by scientists within the GTA reports that their diet is mainly small rodents, birds, fish, fruits and carrion (already dead animals). They do not hunt pets as a first choice. Less than 2% of poop regularly collected from across the GTA contains any dog or cat DNA. Most of this is from cats and dogs hit by cars.

5. COYOTE TRAVEL/ROUTES: Train tracks, ravines, green spaces, beaches. One Coyote can travel many kms using these routes on a daily basis.

6. RABIES: Coyotes are NOT known as a rabies-vector species. Meaning they DO NOT generally carry rabies. 

MYTHS/FACTS ABOUT COYOTES:

MYTH: Coyotes lure dogs into the bush to eat them. Coyotes eat dogs.

FACT: Coyote dens/safe spaces are everywhere in ravines. They protect them. Off-leash dogs create over 90% of bad interactions between dogs/coyotes because dogs get too close or try to chase the coyotes. Coyotes that are willing to approach/interact with people and leashed dogs are almost certainly being fed by someone on purpose in the area. In spring/summer (may-august), adult Coyotes may want to steal dog toys from dogs off-leash (in open areas .. usually balls…) They bring the toys to their dens to teach their pups how to play. The Coyote is NOT stalking your dog for food… it’s trying to steal the ball.

MYTH: There are so many more Coyotes in Toronto than ever before.

FACT: No, not true. They’ve been around for decades. Imagine a green space/train track/beach/bike path etc. We love how our green spaces connect. We want to see that. We’ve been purposefully connecting them as Humans. Coyotes are taking advantage of the connecting pathways.

Imagine all green spaces as a grid of squares. Wildlife of all type takes up these squares. So do humans. If one square becomes empty for wildlife, another will cover that square because food is available. If one Coyote leaves a grid, another will take it over. More pups will be born if there is enough food.

MYTH: removing and re-locating Coyotes, or culling Coyotes will make them a smaller population.

FACT: Nope, for reasons described above. When a territory is suddenly available, all wildlife will move in. If a Coyote is removed, there will be more rodents, which will bring MORE Coyotes. And Coyote pup litters may go from 2-3 pups to 12 pups if there is more food available.

For more information about coyotes in Ontario please check out the Ministry of Natural Resource’s Coyote Fact Sheet or the Coyote Watch web site

Urban coyote