By CHERISE SEUCHARANStarMetro Vancouver
Sat., June 9, 2018
VANCOUVER—While ecologists say Vancouver’s coyotes are a harmless part of urban wildlife, some local residents see them as ruthless predators of beloved pets.
Greg Hart, urban wildlife programs co-ordinator at the Stanley Park Ecology Society, said coyotes have been making their homes peacefully in Vancouver since the 1980s. His group, Co-Existing with Coyotes, tracks sightings of the animals on a digital map. He said they get an average of 1,000 sightings per year, mostly in the spring.
Greg Hart of the Stanley Park Ecology Society said there are about 1,000 coyote sightings per year in Vancouver, mostly in spring, and while the animals do not target cats specifically, they will eat them. (Coyote Watch Canada / Coyote Watch Canada)
Coyotes are here all times of the year, and are active all times of the year,” he said. “Every neighbourhood is part of some coyote’s territory. “
Hart said there is no need to fear coyotes, as they are afraid of humans and primarily are on the hunt for rats, squirrels and other small wildlife. Controlling their access to those things controls their population, he said.
“They are looking for food water and shelter. So make sure to harvest fruits and vegetables from your garden, pick up garbage, and clear away anything that attracts rodents.”
But some residents are concerned local coyotes are harming neighbourhood cats. Judith Webster, an East Vancouver resident, started sending text message alerts about coyote sightings to concerned locals two years ago, after several cats were killed by coyotes.
“I’ve come across remains of cats throughout the years. One year there were four right around my house. Last June my friend saw one being taken … She saw a coyote running down the street with a cat hanging limply from its mouth,” Webster said.
Now she has about 75 members in her text message group. They share their latest sightings with each other. According to recent messages Webster has received, in the past two weeks alone there have been more than five coyote attacks on cats.
“The sightings received are just the tip of the iceberg of coyote activity … Many reports during our first year were of coyotes carrying cats, or of the remains of pet cats discovered after the fact, so the alerts have obviously failed in the primary goal of protecting pets,” Webster said in an email.
Webster believes more needs to be done to protect cats from coyotes.
Hart said that he doesn’t believe coyotes are targeting cats specifically, but owners should keep them inside when possible.
“But they are not waiting around house looking for cats, but small prey, 10-15 pounds is the perfect size. We and the SPCA recommend keeping cats indoors, especially in the spring season when coyotes are hunting and have pups.”
With files from Wanyee Li.