“Aggressive” animals often responding to human aggression

“Aggressive” animals often responding to human aggression

To most wildlife, humans and our barking companions are predators who pose a very serious risk. Their response to us can seem like aggression, particularly when we forget that our mere presence can cause anxiety to non-human animals. But there’s a difference between aggression and defensiveness – and it’s one that was glossed over in a recent CBC article.

The news organization analyzed two years of calls to BC’s Conservation Officer Service regarding allegedly aggressive animals (it is important to note that the term aggression was applied by residents, not wildlife experts or conservation officers).

Bears were the most common animal reported for “aggressive” behaviour, followed by deer, coyotes, cougars, grizzly bears, and moose. While the CBC did speak with Mike Badry, a provincial wildlife conflict manager who explained that attractants and dogs can be at the source of conflict, the overwhelming use of terms like aggression and threatening make it less clear as to who is responsible for much of the reported behaviour.

The combination of human encroachment on natural spaces, introduction of attractants, and a general lack of awareness in how to live alongside wildlife can force animals into defensive postures or conflict – and they’re all due to humans, not the animals. Much of the “aggressive” behaviour can be misinterpreted, too. For example, coyotes who linger, watch, and follow people aren’t being aggressive at all, merely curious.

Common coyote behaviours mistaken for aggression

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