Stop feeding the coyotes,
says MNR biologist
By Liz Dadson
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Kincardine is indirectly welcoming coyotes into the neighbourhood by feeding them.
That's the word from Jody Scheifly, a biologist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
Speaking to Kincardine council last night (Dec. 18), Scheifly offered some ways to live with coyotes, given the rash of sightings over the past few months in the Kincardine area.
"Eliminating intentional and unintentional feeding of coyotes will go a long way toward preventing conflict with coyotes," he said. "For example, intentional feeding of coyotes includes putting dog food out on the deck, and hanging bird feeders."
Scheifly said 80 per cent of the people in Ontario feed the birds, and the MNR is trying to figure out a way to capture revenue from that, he joked.
Giving a brief history of coyotes in Ontario, Scheifly said the animal has expanded its range and evolved into a hybrid of the western coyote and the eastern wolf. Called an "eastern coyote," the hybrid animal is larger and doesn't run in packs like wolves do.
Scheifly said he collected samples in the Grey-Bruce area, from Tobermory to Highway 89, including Kincardine, and said the eastern coyote varies in colour and size. However, there is nothing to suggest any breeding between coyotes and dogs in this part of Ontario.
He noted there is a healthy urban coyote population thriving in Mississauga and Toronto. They eat small mammals, such as mice and rabbits, as well as birds, amphibians, grasshoppers, wild berries and fruit. They will also feed on deer, opportunistically, and on livestock.
Nature has a way of controlling the coyote population, said Scheifly. Hunting is also a good control, but both achieve the same results.
He said there has been a good bounty paid on coyotes by the province up until 1972, and then by municipalities until 1991. But this did not eradicate coyotes; in fact, their range has expanded.
While coyotes and wolves are predators and must be respected as potentially dangerous, Scheifly said the fear of these animals is generally borne largely out of frustration, and the risk of attack is very low compared to other hazards in the province.
Councillor Jacqueline Faubert said she lived in Vancouver for 15 years and coyotes were a common sight.
"What can we do to address the frustration of our residents?" she asked. "They have been told to call the MNR."
"Our only option is to live with the coyotes," said Scheifly, adding as a joke, that once humans are gone only the coyotes and crows will be left.
"The concern arises once coyotes have lost all fear of, and respect for, humans," he said. "That's when they're dangerous."
In fact, he said there are instances where certain animals have to die because their food source is too good and it overcomes their fear of humans.
The difficulty in an urban setting, he said, is that people intentionally feed coyotes, by putting dog food and table scraps outside for the animals."Council can enact a bylaw to stop that," he said.
As for sightings, when people call the MNR, the agency tracks the coyotes, said Scheifly, adding that if a coyote becomes dangerous, the OPP can kill it, within the urban boundaries. "There is no season and no limit; however, I understand the regulations you have with firearms discharge in town."
He said Grey-Bruce needs hunters to get rid of dangerous coyotes. "Anybody can help anybody get rid of coyotes if he has a hunting licence."
Council thanked Scheifly for his presentation.
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013