expert tells Parry Sound Nature Club Coyote Watch Canada hopes to change perception through education COMMUNITY Apr 02, 2018 by Cathy Novak Parry Sound North Star
Coyotes get a bad reputation according to an official from Coyote Watch Canada. April 2, 2018. – Coyote Watch Canada
PARRY SOUND — The Parry Sound Nature Club was privileged to host a presentation by Lesley Sampson of Coyote Watch Canada at their meeting on March 21 at the West Parry Sound District Museum.
The meeting room was filled to capacity — seems coyotes and the chance to learn about coexisting peacefully with them is something many are interested in. Sampson opened her presentation with a beautiful photo of a coyote and the quote, “How you see me is but a mere reflection of you.” Coyotes have caught a bad rap in the past, and one of Lesley’s missions is changing perceptions through educating, engaging and empowering the public to foster respect, acceptance, and compassionate coexistence with these incredible animals.
The Eastern Coyote is a member of the canid family which includes foxes, wolves and dogs. Genetic testing has shown that there is a great degree of mixing of coyote, wolf, and dog DNA, but genetics and DNA really don’t have much bearing on the ability to coexist and minimize conflict. There are many myths about coyotes that Sampson enthusiastically and rationally dispelled. Coyotes do not abandon their pups — they are devoted and diligent parents. Coyotes do not lure dogs away — coyotes are curious and may come close to investigate, but when a dog chases them, they run away … and the dog often follows! Coyotes seen during the day are not ill — coyotes can be active all day, and the young, especially, are very curious and mobile. There is really no difference between coyotes and coywolves — it’s a matter of infinite degrees of mixing of DNA. It’s a myth that foxes and coyotes do not share the land — this is false as they often live in the same territory. The yipping sounds that they make do not mean that they have killed something — coyotes have many reasons to vocalize and a wide repertoire of sounds. Coyotes do not stalk people — it’s usually just a matter of following you (especially if you have a dog with you) out of curiosity, or because they have been fed by others and are hoping for another meal (they learn very quickly, especially when it comes to food). Many folks wonder if coyotes are dangerous. According to statistics, the top three animals for causing death to humans (in order) are farm animals, bees/wasps/hornets, and domestic dogs — coyotes did not make the list.
Coyote Watch Canada has a four-cornerstone approach. Investigation — a critical step in determining the facts of the situation to decide on the correct response. Education — get the right information out to the public. Enforcement — promote enforcement of local bylaws that assist in reducing negative interactions between humans and canids (for example: leash laws, property maintenance and garbage disposal, etc.). Prevention — using deterrents and aversion conditioning to reduce interactions and redirect coyote behaviour.
In the Niagara area where Sampson works with Coyote Watch Canada, sightings are recorded and mapped to determine and monitor coyote “hot spots.” Response teams can then be dispatched to investigate, assist with aversion conditioning, and educate the public on how to coexist with coyotes and reduce problem interactions. The sightings maps can give a snapshot of coyote ecology and seasonal changes, and connect data with ‘citizen science’.
Sampson presented some brief facts about the general ecology of coyotes. The more we know about our neighbours (in this case, anyway), the easier it is to get along! Coyotes mate for life and breed in late January/early February. They share pup-rearing duties. The male will deliver food to the female while she is nursing and can’t leave the den, and once the pups are weaned by six weeks of age, both adults will feed the pups. It is not uncommon for older siblings, aunts and uncles to help with rearing pups. Coyotes communicate by vocalizing and make a wide range of sounds. Coyotes can breed in their first year, and have a gestation period of 62-63 days. They are “fossorial” — they den underground, and often have multiple den sites. They are diurnal, generally most active at dusk and dawn, depending on habitat. In a stable territory, the alpha pair may have litters ranging from two to 10 pups, with the average around six. This sounds like a lot, but 70 per cent of pups die in their first year. Coyote sightings often increase in May and June — the alpha pair will be quite active, as both are out hunting to provide food for the growing pups and themselves, and the pups themselves are out of the den and learning to hunt.
Coyotes are a keystone species for healthy ecosystems, so coexistence is a much better approach than eradication. They are adaptive, intelligent and resourceful. They have a varied diet but mostly eat rodents (up to 70 per cent of their diet) and are excellent mousers, as well as being “nature’s cleanup crew” by eating roadkill and other carrion.
Sampson talked about the “High 5 for Safety” when encountering a coyote (or other animal). Stop — pick up small children or dogs; stand still — take a moment to assess and think about what’s happening, don’t react rashly; shout and wave your arms — scare it away; slowly back away — maintain eye contact and don’t run; share the experience — report the sighting to Coyote Watch or other authority.
To minimize negative interactions between coyotes and people, especially people with dogs, there are important points to remember. Always keep your dog on a leash in areas known to be inhabited by coyotes or other wild canids. In 92 per cent of dog/coyote interactions, the dog was off-leash. Dogs should never be allowed to chase any kind of wildlife; besides the harassment to the animal, your dog may lead the animal right back to you! Bag up and carry out all dog poop. Be aware of the season and what coyotes might be up to at that time of year — denning, mating, raising pups. Report intentional feeding and attractants such as garbage, along with any sightings to Coyote Watch or your municipality.
Sampson provided a thorough, fascinating and engaging education on coyotes to the Parry Sound Nature Club. Her genuine concern and passion for these animals coupled with her first-hand experience and knowledge make her the ultimate advocate for coyotes. Those in attendance at her presentation came away with a better understanding of how to coexist with these wonderful animals. For more information, check out the Coyote Watch Canada website at http://www.coyotewatchcanada.com.
The Parry Sound Nature Club meets on the third Wednesday of each month. Please join us for the next meeting at 7 p.m. on April 18 at the West Parry Sound District Museum. Guest speaker will be Alanna Smoleraz about her volunteer experience in the Seychelles, Africa, with Wildlife ACT. During her time there she got to see and work with various birds, fish, terrapins, giant Aldabra tortoises and, of course, sea turtles. She will share what she learned, and what she was able to contribute to the various wildlife and conservation projects there.