Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Close Encounter With Coyote Shakes Glen Abbey Woman

A Glen Abbey woman is warning area residents to be alert after a coyote got a little too close for comfort, early Tuesday morning.

Catherine Wellman said she was walking her miniature schnauzer, Pepper, along Old Bridle Path, when a coyote, which she described as being about the size of a German shepherd, walked across the road in front of her. “He walked across and he looked at us and then he turned around and started coming towards us,” said Wellman. “He was trying to get close to my dog.” Wellman said the coyote closed to within four feet of her and her dog at which point a frightened Wellman said she tried to instill a little fear in the coyote by lunging and yelling at it. “I didn’t know whether to pick up my dog and run or what, so I just kept my dog on his leash and kept him close to me and then I lunged at the coyote,” she said. “I had to scare him back because he was coming up very close to my dog. I did that about four times, but he kept coming back.” Wellman said the coyote eventually backed off, at which point she and Pepper ran down the street towards their home. She said the coyote watched them as they moved away, but did not give chase, deciding instead to return to some nearby brush.

For Wellman and Pepper the experience was a memorable one, if not exactly enjoyable. “My nerves are kind of shot,” she said. “You think you live in a safe area. I walk my dog in the morning in the dark usually.  This morning it was getting light and I was looking forward to seeing the harvest moon out there and out comes this coyote…Yikes.” While Wellman said she has seen coyotes in the area before, this is the first time she has had any kind of encounter with one. All things considered, she said that day’s experience worked out better than one she had with a neighbour’s dog, which bit both her and Pepper on a pervious walk. Wellman wants other residents to know coyotes are around and have no concerns about coming out in broad daylight. “I know a lot of little kids, like seven or eight years old, who will walk their dogs and they think it’s a nice safe neighbourhood, but…,” she said. “Also some people let their dogs out in their backyard, they have a low fence and the coyote might jump that fence and eat their dog.”

Representatives from both the Oakville and Milton Humane Society and the Toronto Wildlife Centre have said residents should not fear coyotes because coyote attacks on humans are very rare with fatal coyote attacks being even rarer. Seeing a coyote in the daytime and in an urban area should also not be considered unusual because daytime hunting is normal coyote behaviour and with more and more development taking place coyotes are now at home in an urban environment. Hugh Coghill, manager of animal protective services with the Oakville and Milton Humane Society has previously said residents should also not be alarmed if a coyote doesn’t run away when it is yelled at or another noise is made because the coyotes now living in Oakville are used to the sounds of urban life. He has said residents living in areas where coyotes have been sighted need to take special care of their pets because unattended cats and small dogs are seen by coyotes as a food source.

Why did the coyote approach Wellman and her dog? In other similar occurrences it has been speculated that the coyote may have approached because someone in the area is feeding it and it was looking for a handout.
Nathalie Karvonen, of the Toronto Wildlife Centre, has said feeding a coyote is the worst thing a person can do as this is the one thing that can make a coyote dangerous. “That causes really problematic behaviour in many animals and there have been a number of situations where coyotes have nipped at people because it was a coyote that was being fed by someone,” she said. “As a result they were coming very close and becoming very bold because when they are fed by one person they don’t distinguish that they can’t do that with another person.”