Stanley Park Coyote Alert: Summary and GuidelinesFebruary 5th, 2021
Guidelines for Park Visitors
Stanley Park continues to be a place for everyone’s wellbeing and enjoyment, and many visitors still go through the Park daily. As with any place, we can consider potential risks while proactively preparing for them.
Please refer to Vancouver Park Board updates on closures due to aggressive coyotes.
The guidelines below help us prevent conflict between people, pets, and coyotes in Stanley Park at this time.
1) For runners and bikers – We strongly recommend that runners or bikers in the Park reconsider their routes and visitation times in the Park while the closures are in place. Avoid using isolated paths in the early morning or evening, and choose routes with more people that still allow physical distancing. Be vigilant of your surroundings both by sight and sound. Avoid using headphones while running. If you see a coyote, stop running and face it. Scare it with noise and large motions; be persistent until it leaves.
2) For walking pedestrians – Some reports describe coyotes approaching people expectantly, which is a sign of being fed by people. Haze/scare coyotes by stopping to face them, making noise, and looking big and threatening. Consider bringing coyote hazing tools like an opaque garbage bag (to unfurl and snap), an umbrella (to pop open and close), or a noisemaker. Consistent and persistent hazing from people changes coyote behaviour in time, teaching them to avoid people.
3) For dog-walkers – Note that it is coyote breeding season, which continues until mid-summer when coyotes act protectively while raising pups. They will be very wary of dogs (which are seen as a threat) and may assert themselves by confronting or following you along a path. This is meant to “push” you away from their family and is not predatory or aggressive behaviour. If a coyote confronts or follows you and your dog, calmly walk out of the area and do not run. Leash your dog at all times in the Park to prevent contact with coyotes.
4) Please respect area closures in the Park while they are in place, both for your safety and to encourage the cooperation of all visitors. Closures were placed on areas that had the most occurrences of aggressive coyote incidents, to reduce further negative interactions. These will be in place until authorities deem them safe to open.
5) All visitors should expect the likelihood of seeing coyotes in any part of the Park. CwC continues to receive reports of normal, non-aggressive coyote sightings on the trails. We ask the public to report coyote encounters and observations of wildlife feeding:
• Aggressive coyote encounters – COS Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line: 1-877-952-7277
• Non-aggressive coyote sightings – Co-Existing with Coyotes online report form
• Wildlife feeding in Vancouver parks – Dial 311 / VanConnect app or report using our online form
- These were the strongest patterns observed among reports of aggressive coyote behaviour submitted to the Conservation Officer Service (COS) and Co-Existing with Coyotes (CwC):
- A great majority of the aggressive encounters involved people running in the Park. Two incidents involved e-bikes.
- Most incidents were also on forested trails, in the early morning or evening.
- The coyote was unprovoked and often took people by surprise, coming from behind.
- The coyote would run off after persistent hazing. Bites inflicted caused surface wounds on ankles or thighs on the runners.
- Coyotes play a significant role in the ecosystem and are incredibly valued by Stanley Park visitors. However, conflicts must be reduced to prevent people getting hurt and to avoid the need to euthanise more animals.
- Going forward, the most effective and prioritised approaches to reduce coyote conflicts in Stanley Park are:
- Focused public education by SPES and the Park Rangers on the impacts of wildlife feeding and the value of hazing coyotes. Restoring healthy boundaries between people and coyotes requires everyone’s participation.
- Affixing signage to key areas so that visitors come aware and prepared and refrain from feeding wildlife.
- Continued monitoring of coyote conflict reports in the Park and responding as necessary to assess coyote habituation and enforce wildlife feeding laws.
Reasons for this Aggressive Coyote Behaviour
From report descriptions, urban coyote studies, and cases of coyote aggression investigated across North America, this highly unusual behaviour can be traced to two main drivers:
- Coyotes (like dogs, as well as other wild predators) have a natural instinct to chase things that are running.
- Some of the Park’s coyotes have been conditioned not to fear humans—likely even to seek humans—from visitors hand-feeding or leaving food out for them.
Though there was a clear pattern of runners being chased and bitten, the coyotes’ chase instinct alone does not explain this. Joggers, runners, and bikers have used spaces frequented by resident coyotes throughout Vancouver without constantly inviting coyotes to chase after them. Lack of fear of people and expectation of a food reward may override a coyote’s natural aversion to humans, making them more likely to chase and bite people.
Please use our online form below to report observations of wildlife feeding in Stanley Park or elsewhere in the Lower Mainland. Your reports will greatly help authorities manage food attractants and enforce wildlife feeding laws.
Why Not Translocation?
While translocation seems a more humane option for the animals, there are a few issues to keep in mind:
- In cases of wildlife aggression, the animals have often become so extremely habituated that they will more willingly approach people and even harm them. Translocating will place these habituated animals as a risk for people in the new location, and it does not solve the problem behind the animals’ behaviour.
- Even if a less urban/human-populated area is chosen for translocation, this then puts the animals at risk. They are urban wildlife—specialists in an urban habitat—and additionally have learned to depend on people for food. Translocating them in a “wilder” place puts them in territories of pre-existing coyotes (that will see the new coyotes as threats, not friends), or in the way of predators like wolves, bears, or cougars, which they are not conditioned to live around. They often suffer from malnutrition, dehydration, and decreased immunocompetence. The translocation process is also extremely stressful, resulting in significant mortality.
- Introducing another predator into an ecosystem can severely disrupt the resource dynamics of existing wildlife and introduce new diseases.
Ultimately, while we aim for co-existence, authorities must prioritise public safety.
SPES’ Co-Existing with Coyotes program is dedicated to the goal of co-existence and committed to furthering public education for a sustainable, community-based solution. It is against our mission to default to lethal solutions and support coyote culls. However, we defer to the COS when they judge a habituated coyote to be a public liability—when co-existence has failed. These continue to be tragic and extremely rare cases, often resulting from human actions.
Report Wildlife Feeding
Please use this form to report observations of direct or indirect wildlife feeding in Stanley Park (or other areas). These reports are forwarded to authorities for management of food attractants and enforcement of wildlife feeding laws.