Coyotes in urban settings in Barrhaven, Jan Harder , Ottawa City Councillor
As Barrhaven continues to grow, coyotes are commonly being spotted on suburban streets in Barrhaven with our communities approaching on wildlife habits. That is evident by the loud howls that can be heard echoing through the streets on a late summer night.
But there is no cause for concern, we just need to learn how to adapt to having our two habitats collide while co-existing with wildlife.
On Thursday, February 6, the City of Ottawa hosted a wildlife speaker series at City Hall which focused on coyotes in urban settings. It was largely attended with many people wanting to learn more about these four-legged animals.
Speaker, Dr. Stan Gehrt, presented useful information about the ways in which coyotes have adapted to living around humans, based on his 20 years of field research in the greater Chicago area. He also emphasized the importance of not feeding coyotes and keeping dogs on a leash when near natural areas – especially in midwinter, which is breeding season for coyotes, and in spring when their pups are born.
Coyote populations continue to expand, now living in all parts of North America. They have even expanded over to South America with some crossing over the Panama Canal. In this continent alone, 500,000 to 800,000 coyotes are killed every year – some to keep their population down and others by hunters.
Coyotes are closely related to the Grey wolf and is also different than a coywolf which is a mixed breed of both. Coyotes are smaller than a wolf but larger than a fox – another animal which is commonly spotted around Barrhaven.
You may be wondering why coyotes would want to live in urban communities – they fear humans afterall. Much like us, everything they need is right here in our communities: shelter and food. They can eat essentially anything – everything from leaves, fruit and berries to things we throw out in the trash. They are not known to have a primary den (except when raising young cubs), and will take refuge in dens, holes and under peoples sheds and porches.
So, what can you do to ensure coyotes are not getting too close to your personal space? For starters, don’t give them access to food. By feeding them you are inviting them into your space and encouraging them not to fear you.
It is also important to not keep any food outside – something that can attract other animals as well like mice and rats. Bird feeders can draw the wild animals in as can things like dog food bowls.
It is important to also ensure you don’t have any holes in your fences or buildings – places where the coyotes can come in to take refuge.
Lastly, make a point of not letting your cats or dogs out alone after dark. Far too often we are hearing about animals going missing – sometime their owners finding there remains days or weeks later. Just a few weeks ago a Barrhaven family witnessed two of their dogs being lured by two coyotes on a field near the RCMP Headquarters near Merivale and Fallowfield. Sadly, one of the dogs perished from its injuries caused by the coyotes.
All of this is to say coyotes will not harm us if we stay away from them and don’t get in their way. They are most active at night and in the early morning, so if you are out for a walk or hike on one of our great trails, it may be a good idea to carry a walking stick just in case. It may be a good idea to carry items such as a bear banger, dog repellant and a walking stick – all light items which can make a huge difference in a rare circumstance.