Why was the choice of a widespread cull decided on rather than targeting individual coyotes?
Food habituation and the lack of a healthy fear of humans has been an ongoing issue affecting a large number of the animals in Stanley Park including coyotes. It was very challenging to quickly identify individual coyotes in the attacks and, as a result, the difficult decision was made by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to conduct a park-wide cull in the interest of human safety. Further, as people continued to enter Stanley Park after park closures and incidents with coyotes continued to escalate, the time needed to assess the efficacy of removing a few individuals and that effect on the incident rate was no longer an option as the risk level was too high.
Where does the number “35 coyotes in Stanley Park” come from?
An initial estimate of 12 coyotes was provided by local wildlife biologists based solely on land size and typical coyote range. An estimate of 35 was then provided by wildlife biologists working for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development based on population modelling technology estimates. Both figures are only estimates and the actual population number of coyotes living in Stanley Park is unknown.
Why can’t you relocate habituated animals to unpopulated areas? Isn’t a chance at survival better than certain death?
Research repeatedly shows that translocation is not a humane nor effective method for addressing wildlife conflicts.
According to the USDA, “…reasons to avoid or not allow wildlife translocation include stress to the animal, risk of injury to the handler, legal restrictions, risk of moving a disease, an increased risk of death to the animal, the animal potentially returning to the capture site, moving the conflict issue elsewhere, liability from injury caused by a translocated animal, and more.” [Ref: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/reports/Wildlife%20Damage%20Management%20Technical%20Series/Wildlife-Translocation-WDM-Technical-Series.pdf ]
There may not be enough food to sustain a massive increase in the coyote population in a translocated area if a large number of coyotes are moved there. Negative social impacts to the existing coyotes and their packs/social structures could also result. Moving animals into completely foreign territory without their knowledge of local terrain and sources of food puts the animals at a disadvantage and potential risk of death.
Due to food habituation these coyotes no longer have a healthy fear of humans which cannot be unlearned. Moving habituated aggressive/ bold animals into another area with people in the vicinity puts residents at risk, and you cannot just move animals into other locations without permission. Coyotes learn behaviour so the potential exists for this behaviour to spread in the translocated area.
In BC, a coyote sanctuary does not exist and would take considerable time to build and operate, at great financial cost.
Why haven’t people been fined for feeding wildlife?
The BC COS (Conservation Officer Service) can ticket wildlife feeding under The Wildlife Act that states “(1) A person must not (a) intentionally feed or attempt to feed dangerous wildlife or, (b) provide, leave or place an attractant in, on or about any land or premises with the intent of attracting dangerous wildlife.” Coyotes are considered dangerous wildlife; unfortunately, raccoons are not. Ample evidence is needed to fine individuals – either the COS directly witnessing the incident or a photograph clearly showing an individual feeding a coyote. Ticketing for these offences under the Wildlife Act is extremely difficult for the COs as there are only 5 COs for the ‘sea to sky’ region and Lower Mainland. Typically, food is left behind or in piles and determining the individual responsible is incredibly difficult. Currently a wildlife feeding bylaw is being considered by the Vancouver Park Board and the City of Vancouver but the exact date of when this could take effect is unknown.
How will this affect the rodent population in the Park?
Removing or altering any species from an environment will have trickle down effects to non-target species. We may see increases in coyote prey species, including rodents, in Stanley Park. However, since this situation is unique and unprecedented, the full scope of effects will not be entirely predictable.
Is signage in different languages planned for the Park?
A first installment of signage was distributed in Stanley Park in English and using visuals to accommodate non-English speaking visitors. A second installment of signage with messaging translated to other languages, including traditional Chinese and Tagalog, is currently being developed and will be distributed in Stanley Park in the coming weeks. Currently, 96 signs in English and with visual imagery have been installed throughout Stanley Park.
Are coyotes invasive?
Coyotes are not invasive; they are native to North America and have expanded their range in the absence of wolves. Invasive species are defined as an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm.
Has the coyote population grown so large that now they don’t have enough food and are forced to encroach into human areas like the trails of Stanley Park and the West End?
Coyotes have lived in Stanley Park for decades and have been spotted on trails and occasionally in the West End. Coyote sightings are common; however, bite incidents and aggressive incidents are unusual and are caused by wildlife feeding and human encroachment into off-trail areas of the Park. Feeding wildlife causes animals to view humans as a source of food and over time animals become comfortable approaching and displaying bold behaviour towards humans. Coyotes typically prefer to avoid areas heavily populated by humans, and as humans move into areas off-trail in Stanley Park or are present in Stanley Park after hours, wildlife may seek other areas. Wildlife, and coyotes in particular, are very adept at regulating their breeding to stay at a carrying capacity for the territory that they live in. They will typically not breed beyond the resources available for that population number so that they are not forced to move for lack of resources.
What kind of traps are being used? Padded leg-hold traps are being used to capture the coyotes in Stanley Park. They are being monitored consistently.