Dundas neighbours worry about coyotes
Twyla Murray is increasingly worried about the growing number of coyotes boldly prowling her southwest Dundas neighbourhood.
Murray and her husband, Brian, live just steps away from the Dundas rail trail and the nearby Dundas Valley ravine running behind Little John Road. They rattle off stories of close sightings of coyotes.
On one occasion, there was a coyote standing outside their back door in broad daylight. On another, Brian came within feet of a coyote while walking their schnauzer-poodle, Bailey, who froze in fear.
They say neighbours have been confronted by three coyotes walking down the street and the animals have been spotted in an open area beside playground equipment.
“We’ve been worried because they’re very close and don’t seem to be afraid,” said Twyla.
“We go out on the trail a lot and we see moms with strollers and little kids running far ahead … It scares me. I don’t think people realize.”
The couple thinks there should be warning signs along the rail trail and ravine paths to make users aware.
Little John resident and Spectator photographer Ron Albertson snapped a photo of the latest deer victim of coyotes this week. He and his wife have come across three carcasses in the last few months along the Dundas rail trail, adjacent to a popular playground and in the shadow of Dundana public school.
He’s also concerned that rail trail users aren’t prepared to happen upon a coyote.
A number of people walking the trail Wednesday said they weren’t aware that coyotes are hunting deer in the area. One woman walking her large dog said the news makes her wonder if she should be out on the trail alone.
“I run the trail down in the ravine. Maybe I won’t do that any more,” she said.
Coyote attacks on humans are exceedingly rare but not unheard of. A 19-year-old Toronto woman was killed by two coyotes in Cape Breton in October 2009.
Brazen coyotes have become an issue in several parts of Hamilton, including along the Beach Strip last year when they were going into back yards searching for food. Experts say coyotes are one of the few animals in Canada whose range is growing. That brings them into more urban and suburban environments.
Coyotes den in fields, tree stumps or burrows, and typically hunt singly or in pairs. They will kill or eat carrion.
The Murrays say they now see far fewer deer and rabbits than when they moved into the area five years ago. Deer had become something of a nuisance but Twyla worries that the coyotes don’t have any natural predators locally.
Sue O’Dwyer, acting manager of Hamilton Animal Control, says the agency has received 12 calls since January about coyotes in Dundas. She said people are mostly reporting the animals in fields and back yards.
O’Dwyer says if coyotes become a public safety issue, animal control will contact the Ministry of Natural Resources, which would decide whether to trap and euthanize problem animals.
She says those walking in or close to natural areas should carry bells or an air horn and always keep dogs on a leash. Anyone who comes across a coyote should make lots of noise and throw something in its direction, she said. They shouldn’t turn and run but stand their ground and make eye contact with the animal.
Confrontations with an aggressive coyote should be reported to animal control or even the police.
O’Dwyer is particularly concerned about reports of people feeding coyotes, either from their hands or by leaving out food in their back yards. That changes their behaviour from nocturnal, timid creatures, she says, into entitled beggars.
“If people feed them, they will show up in the day and get bold and they become too familiar with people.”