Coyotes in the city, reprise

The Torontoist has a recent article about coyotes in Toronto (Hat tip to Donwatcher).


Coyotes in the city—my opinion

I wonder how much longtitudinal information there is about the prevelance and habits of coyotes in Toronto. I’ve been living in the same house since 1980; and it’s my observation that the number of housecats on the street of an evening had dropped in the last ten years. I used to see cats on porches, cats in front yards, cats crossing the street. I would get to know that certain houses had certain cats. But every year it seems there are fewer. It might only be that people are listening to the Humane Society and subjecting their cats to house arrest. But I suspect that the coyotes are getting more used to the city and bolder about coming into the neighbourhood. That drop in the cat population has crept eastward from the west end of the city, or so I understand from talking to cat owners there, who say that if they want to keep their cats they now have to keep them in.

I am concerned because I think these changes happen slowly enough to be “under the radar” of most people.

I have made several visits to Orange County, California, where the climate is mild all year round and it would seem to by ideal for cats. My covivant has made many business trips there over the last five years, staying in a townhouse complex near an estuary and doing a fair bit of travelling. He has probably made 30 trips and spent the better part of a year there off and on. The coyotes there are fully urbanized. They don’t just stay in the river valleys. In all that time, he’s seen one cat outdoors. One.

I have seen coyotes hunting in pairs in the local valley of a morning and my covivant has seen them, too.

On the other hand, we have visited Balboa Island, a couple of miles away. It is densely populated, with no real room for coyotes to hide in the back garden; and it si connected to the mainland by one bridge that carries a busy street. In the course of a single morning, we saw three cats outdoors and he has seen many more on other visits, on the parapets, in yards, and on balconies, just as you might expect in a mild climate.

I submit that we are suffering a gradual incursion and deterioration of our formerly pet-friendly habitat.

Coyotes in the city—response

As I was looking for information about coyotes eating pets, I found a report for the city of Toronto that said there were few sightings each year and the sightings were actually decreasing. I wonder if one person in a hundred would bother to report seeing a coyote to the city or if they would know where to send their information. I sent the details of mysighting to the author of the report, who forwarded it; and I got this response back:

I am a supervisor with Toronto Animal Services and I’ve been asked to respond to your concerns about a coyote sighting in the Don Valley.

The City of Toronto has had a population of urban coyotes for at least 25 years. Because their normal behaviour is to avoid humans and they are most active during dawn and dusk, there are many residents in the City who have never seen a coyote and in fact don’t realize that they live here.

I’m very sure that what you saw in the Don Valley was a coyote – you seem to know that in silhouette, the differences between a dog and a coyote is the tail carriage. I also know that there are many coyotes in the ravine and this is normal urban coyote habitat.

As long as the coyote is hunting and carrying on in a normal way, there are no concerns at all with the coyote being there. Coyotes become problematic when they become habituated or socialized to humans. This sometimes happens when there is a good food supply from improperly managed garbage or when someone is deliberately feeding them. When coyotes are deliberately fed by people, they quickly lose their natural fear and their normal behaviour is modified. When they have access to garbage, these intelligent animals associate the garbage meal with humans. At that point, they will sometimes interact with people in ways that are uncomfortable for us. For example, they are very curious about our domestic pet dogs. If they are not very scared of the dog owner, they might follow an owner with a leashed dog at a fairly close distance. Sometimes, they might show aggression toward a dog. On very, very rare occasions, they may even show aggression towards people. In Toronto, we have only had experience with one coyote who was actually biting people – we were eventually able to track down the person who was deliberately feeding it and captured the coyote as well. Again, this type of situation is very rare and is not generally a concern for Toronto residents.

We are very lucky in Toronto to enjoy so much green space in parks and rivers. Urban wildlife is part of the enjoyment. Coyotes are probably the least offensive in terms of nuisance wildlikfe calls that we receive in Animal Services (raccoons, skunks etc).

Please contact me if you wish to discuss further.

I think I saw a coyote in the Don Valley!

About midnight last night I was driving in Toronto. I came off the Don Valley Parkway into the Bayview Extension, also in the Don Valley. Just as I came off the ramp, I saw a greyish, wolf-like creature. trotting out to the other side of the road, ready to cross. As soon as it saw the car, it whirled around and ran into the protective woods. That is not the normal behaviour of a domestic dog!

This is bad news for us as the coyotes have been in the west side of the city for some time, but so far they haven’t been much in evidence on our side. Though I haven’t been seeing as many cats on the streets at night… Coyotes can outrun them and will eat them. So now we have the choice of keeping them in or fencing the entire yard so that a cat can’t get out.

Since coyotes are extending their range north due to lack of wolves, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to extirpate them from the city.