Bring in the experts: Learning to live with coyotes

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By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - National animal rights groups urged concerned residents that the proper response to coyote sightings in Eamer's Corners is a safe distance between city life and wildlife.

Over 50 people gathered at Viscount Alexander Public School to hear Coyote Watch Canada founder Lesley Sampson deliver a presentation on a non-lethal approach for municipalities to co-exist with the animal on Jan. 23.

"Coyotes rely on us to give them really solid messages, no blurred lines," said Sampson. "When you look at coyotes, figure out what kind of relationship you want to have with this animal."

After several coyote sightings and a pet being attacked in Cornwall's north end in late 2012, residents signed a petition and filed complaints to the city. The initial response was to eradicate the local population. A strategy widely objected by many residents and animal activists. Since then the coyotes have seemingly disappeared. But a majority of the crowd said their familiar howl can still be heard at night.

"Unfortunately, with the Eamer's Corners location there was a lot urbanization. A huge warehouse was built, the walls went up on the highway and then garbage was being put out at seven at night," she said. "It's nothing novel. These issues come up in every community struggling to co-exist with the animal."

Rebecca Sorell, a strong advocate during the campaign to end beaver trapping in Guindon Park in July 2012, brought her 10-year-old daughter Calysta to get more answers about their four-legged neighbours.

"I wanted to be 100 per cent aware about them: how they work and if they pose a threat," she said.

Sorell was glad to see Adrian Nelson, director of communications for B.C.-based Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, as one of the speakers. He was a key player in the installation of a pond levelling system, which helped put an end to beaver trapping in the area.

"Hunting, shooting, and killing them does not work when it comes to controlling coyote populations. It's a band-aid solution," said Nelson. "That animal is there for a reason. Until that reason is addressed there will continue to be animals in that area."

He warned municipalities not to take a lethal approach because they will end up having more problems about a year after. The Fur-Bearer Defenders generally see a massive explosion in the population of rats, mice, and other rodents after the eradication of the animal. This attracts a new crowd of coyotes looking to feast on a fresh food source and it becomes a reoccurring cycle.

South Stormont resident Roger Roy said it's more important to report the people feeding the coyotes, rather than the coyote itself.

Sampson, Nelson, and an additional speaker from the Fur-Bearer Defenders Michael Howie all agreed.

Roy felt that one family in his county was ruining it for everyone by feeding their dogs outside and not cleaning up properly afterwards. The leftover food becomes an unintentional meal for the coyotes.

Jonathan Cosgrove, a city bylaw officer, assured the crowd that he hasn't received any calls about a coyote since the tail end of 2012. He encouraged everyone to report any sightings to the city.

"From what I know the problem isn't as significant as it was a year ago," he said.

One complaint from the crowd was that there were no representatives from the United Counties.

Elwood Quinn, owner of the Quinn family farm in Île Perrot, Quebec, barged into the Q&A period after the presentation, holding a large picture of a mutilated sheep that allegedly suffered the attack of a coyote on his property.

"This wasn't an act of rage, it's the total defeat of a farmer," he said.

Quinn claimed that coyotes have ravaged his livestock for years, costing him tens of thousands in financial losses.

Sampson doesn't buy into clichés about the coyote being wily or a trickster. She has spent 20 years studying the behaviour and characteristics of the animal to help ensure its longevity.

"They're great at cleaning up the environment and that's what we want. We just don't want them cleaning up our deadstock," said Sampson.

She gave the audience several tips for safely co-existing with coyotes in the event of an up close and personal encounter. Coyote Watch Canada recommends 'hazing' the animal by standing tall, making noise, launching projectiles, and spraying liquids. Sampson even busted out an umbrella to show the simplicity of an effective deterrent.

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