A Lifetime Endeavor
By: Lesley Sampson, Founder of Coyote Watch Canada
I was generously asked to share about our Eastern Coyote (coyote) coexistence plan and why communities need to proactively ensure that they have one in place. The first of several drafts came out warm and fuzzy in celebration of the recent and thrilling news about our partnership with the Town of Whitby, Ontario. Sadly, the reality for wildlife in most communities across Canada is still harsh, wrought with little or no coexistence protocol to foster non-lethal solutions.
Reflecting back to my first coyote education and coexistence project fourteen years ago for the Town of Niagara On The Lake, Ontario I acknowledge, the road to coyote coexistence has been a long and dark one indeed. A needless trail of death, wasted money and misunderstanding has historically been the human response to coyotes living amongst us.
Conflict with wildlife such as coyotes is not a new phenomenon. The media often sensationalizes any incident perceived or real that is coyote related to monopolize on people’s fear and ignorance. The driver behind negative coyote interactions is our careless and misguided behaviour. Be it deliberate feeding, free roaming pets, lack of education and awareness, we create our own messes time and time again and expect wildlife to be the scapegoat.
Many people are initially reluctant when it comes to coexistence. For nearly two decades, I have witnessed the degradation of wild spaces and lost opportunities by government officials to raise their own benchmark for coexistence. Creating and nurturing a sustainable and compassionate wildlife community requires a lifelong commitment by us all. Cruel and lethal methods such as hunting and trapping are not as readily accepted today. To create a harmonious existence with coyotes and other wildlife species such as beaver, deer and raccoons that are deemed – nuisance, city officials are under scrutiny to come up with a more compassionate plan.
Photo credit: Canada Coyote Watch
When partnering communities and wildlife, one has to be the eternal optimist. It requires unwavering patience towards wildlife and people if the goals are to educate and promote coexistence. The wave of compassionate change has finally arrived in Ontario. Municipalities such as Niagara Falls, Whitby and Oakville are embracing what is now our coexistence message “Building compassionate wildlife communities- one community at a time”.
Coyote Watch Canada (CWC) has developed a template for coexistence that can effectively put into action, a framework of response for any community to follow in order to identify and minimize precursors for conflict. Applying common sense strategies and cultivating respectful partnerships with community stakeholders allows for both immediate and long term benefits. Prevention is critical. If we can predict cause and effect, we can put into practice preventative measures. Humans feeding a coyote escalate the potential for negative interaction between people, pets and coyotes.
The City of Niagara Falls has embraced and supports the Living with Coyotes Program. Niagara Falls is a working model for preservation and education initiatives other communities across Canada can follow that may be faced with challenges when living with coyotes. It is definitely a community based initiative that is proving successful.
Mutual trust, respect and the inherent belief that as a community, there is another way besides lethal measures to address wildlife concerns keeps us all in check. Engaging and educating people at every level, from government agencies, media outlets to residents- guarantees the success of any coexistence plan. Volunteerism is the foundation for CWC “community scientists” that provide critical coyote sighting information and apply hazing techniques at localized feeding hot spots.
The CWC framework applies direct conflict resolution strategies. A simple equation for effectively responding to coyote information provided by the public: Record, observe and monitor coyote sightings that are reported through the city website, the hotline number and CWC emails. The program is enhanced with the following initiatives that work interdependently and in conjunction with our prevention and education programs. Four key steps in our mitigating process, (although they may appear labour intensive) are: Investigation, Education, Prevention and Enforcement. Within each of these steps there are guidelines CWC field representatives follow to conduct the same coherent exploration/analysis for each location regardless of the type of conflict (food habituation, dog conflict, lack of education).
Swift investigation is the most important aspect of any coyote coexistence plan. Fact finding and immediate identification of what and where the source of the issue is (food, dogs off leash, baiting, dog/coyote conflict, injured coyote and so forth) determines the next steps for resolution. This is readily accomplished through site inspections conducted by CWC field observations.
Interviewing residents and collecting field evidence provides a factual overview to work from. For example, food removal is a priority for obvious reasons. If this proves to be the situation- photographing, bagging and taking away any food items in the area is very effective. Identifying locations where signs need to be incorporated is also part of the investigation/education process. A report is provided to the city and “next steps” are discussed and executed.
To date we have successfully addressed each location, and continue to monitor former food habituation sites to ensure the education is ongoing and available to the public. Hazing coyotes is very often part of the conflict resolution process.
Engaging communities in the celebration of coyotes in the landscape builds appreciation and tolerance towards coyotes. The public has become more receptive to the education strategies that are promoted by the City of Niagara Falls and CWC. Residents can learn how to do ‘low-intensity’ hazing of coyotes which can be quite empowering and can quickly move coyotes from a feeding hot spot.
Sarah Conidi Executive Assistant to Mayor Diodati, City of Niagara Falls sharing her views on the importance of having a coyote coexistence plan.
“Lesley Sampson of Coyote Watch Canada is an invaluable resource for our community. Not only does Lesley lead her coyote co-existence initiatives through education and empowerment, but she also has a compassionate understanding of our wildlife and knows why they behave the way they do. Lesley’s message is simple: don’t promote human behavior that attracts coyotes. What that main message boils down to is, don’t give wildlife a reason to come near your property; don’t have any food, compost, domestic-pet feed, or garbage available for them to eat! By following the no-feeding initiative, I do believe that residents can successfully wildlife-proof their home to mitigate the risks associated with wildlife co-existence.”
The Living with Coyotes Program in Niagara includes PAWS (Prevention, Appreciation and Awareness, and Wildlife Safety) and High Five For Safety. As part of ongoing education outreach, CWC presents hands on and very dynamic – PAWS and High Five to public schools and naturalist organizations across Ontario which includes ‘what to do if approached by a coyote’.
CWC cornerstones for building a compassionate wildlife community for coexistence include several comprehensive and exciting new tools which are a first of their kind for Eastern Canada.
Highlights For Coexisting With Coyotes (CWC):
- Anti-Feeding By-Law (five thousand dollar fine)
- Coyote Response Team Niagara (CRTN) – Non-lethal response partnership that offers residents and coyote assistance, rescue/release and front line collaborative intervention between Niagara Falls Humane Society, Niagara Parks Police, City By-Law Department and CWC.
- 24 Hour Coyote Hotline
- City Website Coyote Sighting Form
- Monitoring sighting reports (mapping and field observations)
- Coyote Information Brochure (free download resource)
- Seasonal Alerts through the media about coyote ecology
Coexistence is a compassionate journey moving away from conflict to celebration. The presence of wildlife in our community is something to be protected, cherished and a shared responsibility by all. Healthy landscapes depend on species such as coyotes for their ability to clean up natural by-products such as carrion. Coyotes are excellent small mammal hunters and keep meso carnivore populations in check. The song of the coyote is wildness at its best and most precious to any heart willing to listen. We are so blessed to have the opportunity to share our cities, forest and rural spaces with these amazing native wild dogs of North America.
It is never too late to consider a more compassionate way to coexist, the possibilities are endless. In the spirit of preservation, walk with a compassionate heart and mind.
For more information about building a compassionate wildlife community please contact CWC founder Lesley Sampson at:
Coyote Watch Canada (CWC)
P.O. Box 507
314 Creek Rd.
St. David’s Ontario
Follow the CWC trail at: