Here's why coyote sightings have spiked in Toronto recently
Toronto Animal Services is asking people to please, please stop feeding wild coyotes. The lives of some cats and dogs may literally depend on it.
"Whenever we hear about coyotes that are coming up into neighbourhoods and coming close to homes, 100 per cent of the time, when we investigate, we find that somebody's been feeding the coyotes," said Mary Lou Leiher of Toronto Animal Services to City News on Tuesday.
Leiher says coyotes are "opportunistic" and "intelligent," much like our raccoon friends, but with far greater abilities when it comes to killing small mammals like rabbits, rats and cats.
Furthermore, coyotes don't need handouts from humans to survive —though they'll take an easy meal wherever they can get one, hence some of their recent high-profile forays into the downtown core.
Whether it's due to people feeding them or not, the number of coyote sightings in Toronto has risen dramatically over the past two years, evidence of which can be seen in photos and videos all over the internet.
According to City, there were 798 sightings of coyotes reported in 2017. By the end of 2019, that number had risen to a yearly total of 1257.
It is normal to spot some coyotes in the city, especially during the winter, according to the Toronto Wildlife Centre. They usually hang out near ravine systems, large grassy fields, and "large parks where small mammals — a main staple in their diet — are plentiful."
A Coyote trotting up and down residential streets, on the other hand, is an unusual occurence — one that's been increasing in frequency to the point where people are posting signs around dog parks to warn pet owners of potential coyote attacks.
Madden attacked by a pack (4) of coyotes this morning in Cedarvale Park. Unprovoked and in the open. 6:45 am and still dark out. @TOAnimalService Get the word out. #scared #Toronto pic.twitter.com/JGpvWJoqvA— Shachbabe (@Shachbabe) January 6, 2020
Both the City of Toronto and Toronto Wildlife Centre say coyotes do not generally pose any danger to people and that they are usually afraid of humans.
"It is unusual for these species to approach people, but when it occurs, it is usually seen in animals that have become habituated because people feed them," writes the Toronto Wildlife Centre of coyotes and foxes.
"Sometimes the feeding is intentional, but more often foxes and coyotes get used to being around urban dwellings when pet food and scraps from garbage or compost are not well contained."
Coyote in Coronation Park Toronto. They are not at all afraid of people... pic.twitter.com/Ec0ZqdBoxg— Talking Monkey (@TDotMonkey) October 12, 2019
Beautiful and dog-like as these majestic creatures may be, they are not domesticated animals and should never be approached as such. Even if they're really cute. Even if they're babies.
"It's just such a wrong thing to do, to feed a coyote, because it does make them sort of come out of the ravines and into neighbourhoods," said Leiher.
And when they come into neighbourhoods, coyotes can and do occasionally eat pets right out of peoples' backyards with impunity, as the City of Toronto bylaw pertaining to coyote response states that "a bite to another animal is not grounds for removal — it is normal coyote behaviour."
The City will not remove coyotes, in accordance with Ontario's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, but Toronto Animal Services may take sick or injuried coyotes to a wildlife rehabilitation facility where they can recover before going back to where they were first captured.
"Coyotes may approach pets that are not supervised, especially cats and small dogs. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on your pet while they are outside," warns the city.
"Never feed a coyote or any wild animal. Feeding wild animals is detrimental to the community and to the animals themselves."
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