A group of dedicated canine walkers at an unofficial dog park, just outside Fraser River Heritage Park, want people and their pets to return to the area despite coyote sightings nearby.
Friends Jo Catharell and Florence Graham say the area is usually busy with up to 30 walkers on any given morning around 9 a.m., but there were only a handful to be seen Friday.
“A lot of people aren’t coming now because of the coyotes,” said Catharell, who has been walking her dogs Sephora and Savvy on the trail for four years.
Graham added she doesn’t go around the field anymore.
The women want to take back the area from the coyotes and to do that, they say people need to return with their pooches.
There have always been coyotes in the area, but the problem is worse this year, said Lisa, who didn’t want to give her last name.
Lisa was confronted by a couple of the creatures last week and has heard of other dogs being attacked.
“In the past, when [coyotes] see us, they would go back in the bush,” said Lisa. But the situation is different now.
Catharell’s dog, Sephora, was bit by one of them two weeks ago.
Sephora was rounding the corner when she spotted two coyotes, recalled Catharell. The dog began to chase them away, but one turned around and bit Sephora on her hind leg, before darting into the bush.
At what point will the coyotes go from targeting dogs to children, Lisa questioned.
Don Brown, manager at Fraser River Heritage Park, says coyotes have frequented that area for years, but he has never seen any during the day inside the park boundaries.
“Coyotes generally work in packs and are never alone,” said Sgt. Steve Jacobi with the Conservation Officer Service (COS), adding at this time of year, they are protecting their young.
Coyotes are not dangerous to people, but they can get habituated and comfortable around people if there is food around. Jacobi has heard reports of coyotes following people, but the animals are likely looking for lunch. The officer reminded people to pick up their garbage and encouraged dog walkers to keep their pets on a leash in suspect areas.
He also suggested people to travel in groups as this lessens the chance of an encounter.
If a coyote gets in a fight with a dog, one coyote won’t win, but the pack can destroy any dog regardless of size, Jacobi noted.
The COS will investigate if they hear a coyote has attacked a person or pet.
“We’ll call the complainant … and in most cases, if we can find the offending coyote, the one that has caused the problem, we’ll try to call them out and destroy them,” said Jacobi.
Coyotes will not get relocated because they are social animals and being out of their element would destroy them.
To report a coyote encounter, call the COS at 1-877-952-7277.
Wildlife encounters in a community like ours, which is bordered by large stretches of forests and natural habitat, are not surprising, and anyone venturing outside should be aware of the possibility.
Coyotes can pose a risk to people, especially children, and pets, when they are provided with food sources outside of their natural habitat. The provincial Wildlife Act deems it an offence to feed dangerous wildlife, including coyotes, bears and cougars.
If you are approached by a coyote take the following actions:
• make yourself look as large as possible
• wave your arms
• shout at the coyote
• throw sticks or stones in its direction
• Don’t run or turn your back on the coyote, but slowly move to safety.
For more information and coyote safety tips, please visit the provincial Ministry of Environment’s website at www.env.gov.bc.ca
Source: District of Mission