The art of media speculation: Thornhill coyotes

On Monday, June 23, 2014, two canids of unknown species came into conflict with two women, resulting in minor injuries to both. Police were able to locate and fire shots at the animals, but their identity and location remains unknown.

That’s the story we would write. That’s based on the facts available. What came out in the Toronto media… well, that’s a true representation of the art of media speculation.

Thus far, early in the story, the Toronto media have referenced the unknown canids as:

  • Two aggressive animals – possibly coyotes (Toronto Sun)
  • Coyote attacks suspected north of Toronto (CBC)
  • Coyote-like animals (Toronto Star)
  • Two large coyotes (CP24)

We’ll hand it to Toronto Police – they have not committed to one determination of the species. They have stated the animals could be German Shepherds or could be coyotes or even a mix of the two. But they don’t know, so they won’t say.

The facts, however, won’t stop the Toronto media.

Since they have not taken the simple step of offering guidance, we thought we’d do their jobs for them:

  1. If approached by a coyote (or unknown dog) do not run; make yourself large, yell and throw objects toward (but not at) the animal. Slowly back away if it does not leave.
  2. Pick up small dogs or children if approached, as they will become a part of you rather than a smaller, less defendable creature.
  3. If running or cycling and a coyote begins to chase – stop and repeat step one. Any canid will chase something moving quickly away – it’s built into their DNA.
  4. Never, ever, ever, feed or approach a wild animal, particularly if its young may be around. They will defend themselves (just like you would).

We do not know what these animals are. We know that their behaviour is highly atypical for coyotes, unless they are threatened. We know that their behaviour is less unusual for domestic dogs that have not been properly socialized. But we don’t know. And we won’t guess.

Hopefully, the media will figure out the damage they do when they speculate before we see a repeat of the coyote slaughter in Nova Scotia.

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