Stanley Park Coyote Alert: Summary, Guidelines, FAQ

Co-existing with Coyotes

Information for the Coyote End-Of-Breeding Season (August-December)

We’re in a time of higher coyote activity as pups are finished being reared in and around their dens.

Autumn is the dispersal season for many young coyotes living in Vancouver. As the pups become mature, many of the family groups will start to kick out some of their young. Young and curious coyotes will be out exploring and learning skills needed for survival and we may often come into contact with them.

We can reinforce their natural fear of people by scaring them away from public spaces if they are seen during the daytime

To avoid conflicts and maintain a healthy barrier between humans and coyotes, please:

  1. Report encounters and sightings by calling 604-681-WILD, filling out the online form available on our website, or using the VanConnect app.
  2. Keep dogs on-leash and cats indoors to prevent any potential harm to pets.
  3. Should you encounter a coyote, be BIG, BOLD, and LOUD, and carry hazing tools that make loud noises such as a coyote shaker to scare coyotes away.
  4. Do not run away from a coyote; this may invite it to chase you.

    Assess properties for food attractants. Remove any food sources like open trash or compost. Cut down overgrown vegetation and (if unoccupied) close off any openings that can be used as dens.

Please consult our Understanding Urban Coyotes page on coyote breeding and how we can be prepared.”

Guidelines for Park Visitors

Stanley Park continues to be enjoyed by visitors daily, and aggressive coyote incidents are very rare occurrences in the Park. As with visiting any natural places, it is important to consider potential risks and proactively preparing for them.

All visitors should expect the likelihood of seeing coyotes in any part of the Park. CwC continues to receive reports of normal and peaceable coyote sightings on the trails. Please refer to our coyote sightings map to see the coyote activity reported in the Park and plan your visit. 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 Stanley Park – Report using our online form

The guidelines below can help you prevent conflict between coyotes and yourself or your pets in Stanley Park at this time.

1) For runners and bikers – Runners and bikers in the Park should reconsider their routes and visitation times in the Park until the end of spring. Avoid using isolated paths near bush cover 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. Do not use listening devices while running. If you see a coyote, immediately 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 or take more persistence to scare off, which is a sign of being fed by people. Coyotes may sometimes appear to follow people on the paths; it is likely they also use trails for their own convenience. Haze/scare off coyotes by stopping to face them, making noise, and looking big and threatening. Be persistent until the coyote leaves. Consider bringing coyote hazing tools like an umbrella (to pop open and close), or a noisemaker. You may also throw dirt or sticks towards them to hasten their departure. Consistent and persistent hazing from park users changes coyote behaviour in time, teaching them to avoid humans.

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 when they are in place, both for your safety and to encourage the cooperation of all visitors. There are currently no trail closures in place in the Park due to coyote activity.

Please take the time to read the situational summary below for more information and updates.

Situational Summary

A map sequence of coyote bite incidents (16 total) from December 2020 to present, in 2-week intervals. This map will be updated to reflect the most recent bite incidents. The last incident was on May 13. Please take the time to read the incident patterns below.
  • These were the strongest patterns observed among reports of concerning coyote behaviour submitted to the Conservation Officer Service (COS) and Co-Existing with Coyotes (CwC):
    1. Adult joggers have reported chases or bites from coyotes (3 chases were on bikers). 1 person walking has reported a bite. Dog-walkers may be followed due to coyotes’ wariness around dogs in the breeding season.
    2. Most bites on joggers happened between 5 PM (dusk) and 7 am (dawn). To avoid these conflicts, please consider running in the Park in the daytime.
    3. The incidents happened around the Hollow Trea area or Brockton Oval areas, on routes adjacent to bush cover.
    4. The coyote would leave 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:
    1. Focused public education by SPES and the Park Rangers on safety, coyote awareness, and the impacts of wildlife feeding in the Park.
    2. Increasing the ability to enforce against wildlife feeding by inviting public support for the Don’t Feed the Wildlife bylaw motion.
    3. Affixing signage to key areas so that visitors come aware and prepared and refrain from feeding wildlife.
    4. Continued monitoring of coyote conflict reports in the Park and responding as necessary to assess coyote habituation and enforce wildlife feeding laws.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the current status of coyote behaviour and conflicts in Stanley Park?
2. How do I respond if a coyote approaches?
3. What parts of Stanley Park should I avoid?
4. What is behind this change in coyote behaviour?
5. What are the risks for dogs?
6. What are the risks for children?
7. What strategies are being implemented to address this coyote behaviour?
8. What is being done to address wildlife feeding?
9. Why not relocate/translocate the coyotes?

What is the current status of coyote behaviour and conflicts in Stanley Park?

All coyote encounters reported to Co-Existing with Coyotes can be found on our coyote sightings map. There were a total of 16 bite incidents between December 19 to April 6. 13 of these occured in December and January.

Besides the bites, there are occasional reports of coyotes advancing towards and chasing joggers. As the weather warms and more people take up this activity in the Park, it is crucial that runners and joggers come aware and prepared. Please read up on our guidelines and patterns of previous bite incidents.

Most coyote encounters continued to be reported in the Park are normal and non-aggressive sightings.

A few reports observed coyote behaviour resulting from food-conditioning, or having been fed by people in the past, and are not always aggressive. These behaviours include approaching people and being initially resistant to hazing. These encounters require persistent hazing until the coyote leaves.

Other types of interactions are due to the breeding season (between now and July), when coyotes act more protective while raising a family. They will be more assertive around their dens to observe or repel potential threats. Coyotes may “escort” dogs and sometimes people out from their territory by following them until they leave. These encounters do not result in aggression or attack if dogs are on-leash and dog-walkers calmly lead them out of the area, preventing any engagement between dog and coyote.
Please find more information and tips around the breeding season on our Co-Existing with Coyotes page.

How do I respond if a coyote approaches?

Hazing or aversion conditioning are what we call safe and humane methods of driving away coyotes. They are both reactive in physically deterring coyotes during an encounter and proactive in “teaching” them to avoid humans in the future.

There are basic methods which only require your voice and body, as well as advanced methods which can involve using tools.

To haze or scare away a coyote, stand your ground facing the coyote, wave your hands overhead, yell (not scream) “Go away coyote!” and make plenty of noise. Do not run, and aim to intimidate. Besides this, you can pop open an umbrella, throw sticks or dirt towards the coyote (not to hit), or use a noisemaker. Do not stop hazing the coyote until it has left.

Do not be alarmed if a coyote does not respond to hazing right away. Be persistent, and be as forceful and intimidating as you can, without harming the animal. Coyotes will respond best when you clearly communicate that their proximity is not tolerated.

For more on humanely and safely hazing coyotes, please find our coyote hazing page or Coyote Watch Canada’s extensive hazing brochure.

What parts of Stanley Park should I avoid?

Please refer to our bite incident map above for locations of the bite incidents since December 2020. We are still in consultation with experts to learn whether these interactions have reason to be location-based.

Generally, bite incidents have happened around the Hollow Tree area and Brockton Oval area of Stanley Park.

Park visitors must expect to encounter coyotes in any part of the Park, and be prepared to scare off any human-tolerant coyotes with hazing procedures [link to that section]. Please consult our coyote sightings map to all reported encounters, categorised by behaviour. We hope that this information can prepare you to make informed decisions about your visit.

What is behind this change in coyote behaviour?

At least two main drivers are behind this unusual behaviour:

  1. Some of the Park’s coyotes have been conditioned not to fear humans—likely even to seek humans—from experiences of people hand-feeding or leaving out food for them.
  2. Coyotes (like dogs, as well as other wild predators) have a natural instinct to chase things that are running.

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, placing them near people more frequently and more likely to display aggressive behaviour.

There may be other factors that contribute to the situation, whether in the habitat or in human-coyote interactions that are unreported. At this time, we are making efforts to learn more about the bigger picture through active research projects and working with expert consultants like Coyote Watch Canada and urban wildlife academics from the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta.

What are the risks for dogs?

No dogs have been involved in the bite incidents reported in the Park. However, dogs will likely induce defensive behaviour in coyotes at this time; this is natural and distinct from the recent behaviour of concern towards people.

We are in the middle of the coyote breeding season, which occurs between January to July. At this time, coyotes go through all the stages of raising a family: mating, denning, and rearing pups. This is a vulnerable period for the mother and young, hence we see more protective behaviours that look different from the rest of the year. From normally being aloof and avoidant, coyotes will be more wary and assertive in order to safeguard their territories.

People walking dogs may experience coyotes “escorting” them, with the purpose of watching or herding them out of the area, and not to attack. Please keep your dogs on-leash at all times to control these encounters and do not allow them to engage with the coyotes. You may find more information and tips around the breeding season on our Co-Existing with Coyotes page.

What are the risks for children?

Thankfully, no children were present in any of the bite incidents. The reports of bites and chases from coyotes have consistently involved:

  • Adult joggers or bikers along trails or roads near bush cover.
  • Areas around the Hollow Tree and Brockton Oval (please refer to our incident map)
  • Time of day around dawn and dusk (between 5 pm and 7 am)

It is very important to avoid replicating the conditions around the bite incidents. To reduce the risk to children, please consider the following when planning a visit to the Park:

  • Teaching your children how to identify and scare away a coyote, emphasising not to run away in an encounter
  • Being vigilant in supervising your children and staying close to them when on trails
  • Using more open spaces in the Park away from bush cover, and consulting our incident heat map to plan your visit
  • Visiting in the daytime, rather than at dawn or dusk

What strategies are being implemented to address this coyote behaviour?

SPES is currently consulting canid specialists Coyote Watch Canada and academics from the University of British Columbia and the University of Calgary on how to investigate and modify the coyote behaviour. Without the root of the issue being addressed (e.g. people feeding coyotes directly or indirectly), any efforts from an intensive coyote aversion conditioning program will be ineffective or, at best, yield only short-term results.

Most immediately, we are providing education to the public around basic aversion conditioning or “hazing” techniques, to be able to respond safely and effectively in a coyote encounter. The more consistently coyotes are met with these actions, the more they can learn to avoid encounters with people.

What is being done to address wildlife feeding?

SPES supports the movement on a recently motioned bylaw against wildlife feeding, to apply throughout the City of Vancouver. We invite the public to also voice your support for this motion to prioritise action and enforcement around this activity, which has greatly contributed to the Stanley Park coyote situation and will continue to do so wherever humans and wildlife intersect. Contact your local MP to support this motion, attend the public hearings when they happen, and let others know. Follow the Stanley Park Ecology Society Facebook page for our announcements on the motion’s status.

To help SPES better understand the frequency and degree of wildlife feeding in Stanley Park, both to inform public education strategies as well as advise authorities in charge of management and enforcement, please submit your observations to our wildlife feeding report form.

Why not relocate/translocate the coyotes?

While translocation seems a more humane option for the animals, there are a few issues to keep in mind:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. However, the COS is involved when a habituated coyote has been judged as a public liability. These continue to be tragic and extremely rare cases, often resulting from human actions.

(For reference: Massei et al., 2010; Fontúrbel & Simonetti, 2011)

A coyote in the snow
A coyote in the snow at Van Dusen Gardens. Photo: Milva DeSiena

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