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Reports of coyotes down but bold behaviour up: Edmonton biologist – Edmonton Journal

Reported sightings of coyotes in Edmonton are down in 2021 but the canids seem to be getting bolder over time, suggests University of Alberta biologist Dr. Colleen Cassady St. Clair.
“I think people are getting used to seeing more coyotes and maybe less likely to report them,” said St. Clair, who operates the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project (EUCP) that documents coyote sightings and behaviour in the city.
The project has received 1,095 reports from the public of coyote sightings in 2021 up to Oct. 20, down from 1,519 sightings reported for all of 2020.
But she urges Edmontonians not to get too comfortable because since she started the coyote project in 2010, she has seen increases in their numbers and boldness.
“There are more (media) reports of people being bitten and dogs being bitten. At least one paper in peer-reviewed literature of media analysis of North American cities documented that. And there were 45 people bitten by coyotes in Stanley Park in Vancouver this year.”
In Edmonton, a toddler was hospitalized in April last year after a coyote lunged at her, biting her head and ear while she was in Coronation Park.
St. Clair estimates the city’s coyote population ranges between 500 and 1,000 animals, with a core group living in the river valley.
Hair-raising reports aside, the professor stresses that attacks on humans are still rare, and an EUCP field study conducted this year showed that most coyotes fled when they came within 20 to 39 metres of study volunteers.
Out of 54 occasions when volunteers observed one or more coyotes, only one coyote approached them.
Gabrielle Lajeunesse, a master’s student in ecology who works with the EUCP, said that w hen a volunteer assessed that the coyote was less than 40 metres away, the animal was considered “bold.”
If a coyote approaches someone, Lajeunesse suggests people shout, run towards it and throw things in its direction.
“Make them fear humans,” she said.
Food or compost shouldn’t be left outside of homes because coyotes can associate humans with food and become even more bold, increasing the chances of aggressive behaviour, she said.
St. Clair recommends keeping large dogs on leashes while walking outside and to pick up and hold small dogs. Cats should be kept indoors because coyotes are known to stalk and eat them.
Edmontonians can further protect dogs and properties by building tall fences or installing on fence tops a ‘ coyote roller ,’ a pipe made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that rolls if a coyote tries to climb it, St. Clair added.
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