There have been occasional coyote sightings in the Greater Toronto Area over the past several years. While it can make many residents uncomfortable to spot a coyote in their area, coyotes are typically nocturnal hunters who come out at night to find small rodent-like prey.
Spending a decade in the rural area of King Township certainly gave me a new perspective of these unusual animals. While it was rare to spot one out in the daylight, at night you could often hear their sharp yips as they communicated with each other, and occasionally we would be treated to a group howl. Walking out in the back fields and forests, you could occasionally find burrows dug into the sides of small hills or under trees, a potential sign of a coyote den where pups are birthed and raised until they are ready to hunt with their mothers. As with any small animal, coyote pups are adorable little creatures if you are lucky to spot one (from a safe distance of course).
As development encroaches on the natural wooded areas where coyotes inhabit, there are the occasional “coy-dog” which is essentially a hybrid between a coyote and a domestic dog. As their natural dwellings shrink, so does their natural food supply. While coyotes have a bad reputation, especially in residential areas, it is their instinct to find food for their families and pups whether it be in a garbage can or sadly someone’s small pet. Any farmer or rural resident will tell you that sooner or later one of your barn cats may end up as someone’s dinner if they roam too far from home after twilight. We would keep our dogs close to the house once night fell, as hearing their howls was enough of a reminder to respect them and their hunting time.
Coyotes are protective of their young, and can be aggressive if you happen to come across an area where her litter may be hidden. This can happen if you are walking in a rural or forested area, however coyotes typically spend the daytime resting unless they are desperate for food or suffer from disease that disorients them, causing them to attempt to hunt in the daytime.
I was driving in Halton Hills the other day, and spotted a coyote in a field in the middle of day near a horse farm. I pulled over to the side of the road, and immediately called the local humane society to notify them, as it was near a rural residence. I also happened to have a camera with me, and snapped this picture.
The Ontario Wildlife Centre has some valuable information on what to do should you encounter a coyote. Precautionary measures include:
- Never feed coyotes or attempt to ‘tame’ them
- If you encounter a coyote leave the area calmly, do not make direct eye contact, turn your back or run from a coyote
- When coyotes are in your yard make them feel unwelcome with loud noises or spraying them with a hose
- Teach children to respect wildlife and keep their distance
- Do not allow your dog outside at night unsupervised
- Keep cats safe inside
- Fence your property to make it less accessible (a fence will need to be at least six feet high and will need to extend a minimum of six inches underground to deter coyotes)
- Spay or neuter your dog (coyotes are attracted to, and will mate with, unspayed/unneutered domestic dogs)
To learn more about coyotes, visit Living with Coyotes on the Ontario SPCA’s website.
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