The eastern coyote has been a huge topic of conversation here on the Outdoors Guy over the past couple of years. Even when the subject is changed, things always seem to revert back to wile e coyote and its place(or lack thereof) in the Nation’s Capital.
MNR Biologist Scott Smithers recently spoke with Ron Corbett of the Ottawa SUN to share, what I would describe as, important insight into the coyote situation from a wildlife management standpoint.
It would seem apparent that even an MNR Biologist realizes something needs to be done about predator control, but alas politics and animals rights rear their ugly heads.
I see the coyote now like that kid in elementary school who was always getting in trouble. My parents would tell me “yeah, but he has troubles at home”, and the teachers would label him a problem child or blame it on upbringing. Sure, he’d be good for few days but you just knew things were on the edge of boiling over at any given moment.
Our coyotes are like this troubled kid in school. Sure, it may not be completely the child’s fault but they continue to disrupt the class so something needs to be done about it.
Here is Ron Corbett’s article:
Put people before coyotes, biologist
By Ron Corbett
On Sunday, I wrote about the problems a woman in Nepean was having during the Christmas holidays with a coyote in her backyard.
The eastern Ontario biologist for the natural resources ministry is aware of the story and thinks it should be a wake-up call for the city of Ottawa, especially as it pursues a new wildlife management strategy.
“Most cities in Ontario are in denial when it comes to coyotes,” says Scott Smithers. “For years we have been telling people that coyotes are not dangerous, that there have never been coyote attacks on people in Eastern Canada.
“Well, we can’t say that anymore. There have been attacks. And the truth is, coyotes are changing – their habits, the sheer number of them – it’s a very different situation from what it was even five years ago.”
Last month a seven-year-old girl was bitten by a coyote in her backyard in Oakville. In October 2009, a teenager was attacked and killed by coyotes in Cape Breton. These are the attacks Smithers is talking about.
He says a reassessment on how the city handles wildlife issues – from beavers in Stittsville to coyotes in Nepean – is “long overdue” although he worries “a lot of emotional arguments” may doom the exercise before it even gets started.
He won’t come right out and say it, but he’s talking about political correctness. About treating wild animals like Disney characters, little doe-eyed Bambis that can never be hunted, trapped, or even bothered.
Yet we need this debate. You just have to look at an aerial map of Ottawa to see why. We are surrounded by wilderness, with green space running like the spokes on a wagon wheel from the rural boundary right up to the downtown core.
Smithers says there are probably coyotes living within a kilometre of Parliament Hill. “We are a southern Ontario city,” he says, “with Northern Ontario wildlife issues.”
Despite this rather unique characteristic of our city, we have no strategy on how to manage our wildlife, or what to do when there are conflicts between animals and people. We simply refer people to other levels of government. Or expect the police to deal with it.
Two years ago — when coyotes started eating lap dogs in Osgoode — the city finally decided it was time to come up with some sort of plan. It formed an advisory committee, to make recommendations on a municipal wildlife management strategy.
Smithers sits on that committee, although he is not optimistic the city will end up with a good plan.
“To be frank, I found it a frustrating experience,” he says. “A lot of stakeholders were involved, and there was a lot of emotion at the meetings. I’m not sure good science is going to dictate the city’s policy.” What might carry the day is the “emotional argument” that says animals should never be hurt, under any circumstances.
Smithers says such a policy would be foolhardy. He says people should come first in a city, even though he is a trained biologist and hopes the city policy will respect wildlife.
“It’s like that woman in Nepean with the coyote in her backyard,” says Smithers. “That coyote clearly is showing no fear of humans, and that’s dangerous. You can’t just tell her to co-exist with that animal.” Yet that’s exactly what many animal rights groups tell municipalities to do. The most egregious example might be Glendale, Arizona, which debated a cull of coyotes after a four-year-old girl was killed by coyotes.
Animal Defense League member Pamelyn Ferdin, covered in fake blood, appeared at the council meeting to oppose the cull and to argue the child had not actually been killed by coyotes, but had been the victim of child abuse.
The cull went ahead, and within 80 days 56 coyotes had been trapped or killed within half-a-mile of the attack site.
“You shouldn’t walk around in fear of coyotes. You need to realize these attacks are extremely rare,” says Smithers. “At the same time, you shouldn’t walk around thinking wild animals are pets.” City staff is currently putting the finishing touches on the wildlife management strategy report. It should come before city council this spring.
It will be interesting to see how the city has responded to the various stakeholders in this debate. Let’s hope people get as much respect as animals, and science trumps emotion.
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