With an increasing number of coyotes attacks in Calgary’s northwest communities throughout June, the city is on high alert with experts raising concerns about wild animals becoming more comfortable with humans due to urban expansion.
Coyote attacks on humans are very rare. The string of recent incidents, in Nolan Hill and Tuscany, has led to two different coyotes being put down in the past few weeks.
Lincoln Julie, integrated pest management lead for Calgary Parks, says the decision to put down the coyotes was simple.
“As soon as a coyote makes contact like that in an aggressive form like that, unprovoked, that pretty much makes our decision for us,” says Julie.
Julie adds both coyotes were young males and possibly trying to establish their territory.
When 311 started seeing an increase in calls regarding coyotes over the past month, the city worked with Alberta Fish and Wildlife to implement their hazing program. The program works by trying to scare the animals off using progressive steps meant to cause coyotes to associate humans with loud noises and other unpleasant experiences.
Julie says in most cases the hazing is successful after the first one or two steps.
On average, fewer than three people a year are attacked by a coyote in Canada. The two coyotes in the city’s northwest, combined, have been responsible for more than five attacks on humans.
Ian Urquhart, executive director of Alberta Wilderness Association, says that these attacks were remarkable with how many took place and how close together they were.
Urquhart says there could be a variety of motives behind these coyotes attacking, including urbanification.
“We are moving into the territory that wild animals inhabit,” says Urquhart. “Because as we’re building Calgary, we’re building into a habit that is frequented by wild animals like coyotes.”
Urquhart says he believes coyotes in the northwest of the city are getting more relaxed around humans.
“They are comfortable with people, they are comfortable with humans. They are habituating themselves to the human environment, they are losing the natural fear they have to humans.”
Urquhart adds if you cut wildlife off from a space that they traditionally or historically access, we are possibly increasing the risk of unpleasant wildlife encounters.
As the city grows, it is important to ensure we are giving proper space and access to resources for the wildlife whose land we are impeding on, Urquhart says.
“One of the things that planners should look at is connectivity between the wilder parts of Calgary ensuring that there is connectivity between these types of landscapes.”
Both Julie and Urquhart say it is important for Calgarians to be proactive in protecting themselves and others from wildlife such as coyotes and stress the importance of not feeding wild animals and proper food disposal.
“Very similar to if you’re living in bear country you do not leave food, or store food or garbage in a way that is going to invite them into your neighbourhood,” says Urquhart.
Julie adds that Calgarians should take precautions in dog parks, keeping their dog on a leash and not letting them pursue a coyote if they see one. Making oneself look and sound bigger than they are, by waving their arms and making loud noises, can also help.
“We try to coexist the best we can with coyotes. They are in Calgary regardless of what we do.”