Conservation, police and Trail Times phone lines blew up again this week with calls about a fearless coyote frequenting downtown during daylight hours.
“He’s definitely a wily coyote,” says Conservation Officer (CO) Ben Beetlestone. “Humour aside, it has to be taken seriously, and hopefully the coyote doesn’t suffer and no one gets hurt, that’s the bottom line.”
Since last fall, the coyote has eluded capture by the conservation service and police.
“I don’t know for sure if this is the same coyote that people have been reporting,” Beetlestone said. “But from the pictures, it does appear to be the same one that was all over downtown and West Trail again yesterday, and two days ago in Glenmerry, walking and stalking people right into their hot tub.”
He added, “I think the one we were getting calls on until 10 o’clock last night is the one we are trying to remove. I can’t say for sure if it is the one we chased between Christmas and the new year two days in a row, because by the time we got (to Trail), he was gone and impossible to find.”
The most recent daytime account is quite frightening.
Two West Trail moms were walking their six-year old sons home from school Wednesday afternoon when a coyote came up behind them and nipped at one of the boys. The women reported it to conservation, and described the incident as the animal running “with a purpose” up the Spokane Street stairs, behind city hall. Yelling and kicking scared the coyote off until the four got inside their home. But it didn’t end there, as one of the mothers spotted it lingering behind their home after they were safely inside.
The behaviour is alarming to say the least – coyotes are typically nocturnal hunters.
So why is this coyote comfortable enough to scavenge populated areas in broad daylight?
Simply put, finding food is easy pickings.
“It’s not normal behaviour (to be out midday),” Beetlestone explained. “But as soon as an animal like that becomes habituated to non-natural food sources, it’s no different than a black bear, it’s just that this is a coyote.”
He suspects the wild canine has been fed by people and accessed garbage throughout Trail without repercussion, so it has no fear.
“It’s like getting free handouts,” Beetlestone said. “It probably started off as a night time roamer through the community and all of a sudden, it’s like ‘wow, it’s easy to fill my belly around here,’ so he’s decided to stick around and as every day goes by, it’s become a routine.”
Beetlestone says he doesn’t think the coyote is looking at people as a food source, rather he’s looking at people as a way to get food.
“I think he’s approaching people because he’s been rewarded with food by people in the past, so he has no fear.”
However, the CO does stress that the animal is wild and unpredictable so the community must take heed.
“I know that he’s approached people and pets, bares his teeth and hackles up,” Beetlestone explained. “It is intimidating and he can be brazen, and not easy to scare off.”
He suggests people carry a walking stick and that dog walkers carry bear spray to be safe.
The bottom line is, that once conservation does catch up with the coyote, it will be euthanized.
“It’s not a threatened species,” Beetlestone pointed out. “It’s an habituated coyote so you can’t just take it away, even this time of year, where are you going to bring it?”
Trapping with a foothold presents a risk to the public, and besides that, relocating the coyote is not an option.
“It’s not fair to the coyote to move it to a place where there might not be any natural food,” Beetlestone reasoned. “So it will just starve to death. It’s sad, but that’s what happens.”
In the meantime, the best way to deal with the situation is for people to manage their garbage and other attractants, including keeping pets in at night.
“If they don’t deal with their attractants who’s to say we won’t have four coyotes by spring,” he said. “They are pack animals. This one is a dead coyote walking, but we don’t need to bring more coyotes into the same situation.”
Beetlestone concluded, “If you look at the reasons why this one is here and you start to address those reasons, then maybe we can prevent this situation from escalating or re-occurring, like we do with bears – it’s a revolving door every spring.”