A wildlife official in St. Albert is dishing out some solid advice to residents after a group of coyotes started hanging out at an off leash dog park. But authorities also need to find out who’s dishing out to the coyotes – and stop them.
The CBC has reported that Edmonton wildlife officer Dennis Prodan says the coytes in the nearby city’s park have become habituated.
"We see these urban coyotes in and around Edmonton all the time … and the reason that we do see them here is because they're extremely adaptive to all kinds of different environments," he told the CBC. "We have wild coyotes and we have coyotes that have been habituated. Wild coyotes act completely differently than habituated ones."
Of course this statement is a little off – a coyote who has been habituated is still wild. Habituation, a term commonly used when coyotes or other wild animals increase their proximity tolerance to people and heavily populated areas, does not change the nature of the coyote.
And just as habituation is a result of individuals teaching the coyotes that the off leash park is a good spot for an afternoon stroll, we can teach them to avoid the area.
Hazing is an effective means of reversing the ‘habituation’ process. A form of aversion conditioning, hazing can include throwing items toward (but not at or with the intent to injure) an animal, making loud, unusual noises, and appearing larger than you are.
Our friend Lesley Sampson, Executive Director at Coyote Watch Canada, comment on the groups' Facebook page that a Coyote Response Team should be formed to assist in the hazing – a recommendation with which we heartily agree.
But what the wildlife official and media did not report on is potentially the most important aspect of a situation like this: identifying and stopping the feeding. It is clear that an individual or group of individuals are feeding the coyotes directly or indirectly, thereby teaching them to remain in the area and feel more comfortable around people.
Enforcement of by-laws such as property standards can be utilized by municipalities when this behaviour occurs, though we, and Coyote Watch Canada, recommend creating a specific wildlife feeding by-law.
Residents of St. Albert should not fear these coyotes – but they should respect them enough to let them be wild.
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