Carol Perrin is becoming increasingly frustrated with the coyote problem in her neighbourhood — again.
It’s certainly nothing new — it has been a subject of concern for many years, but seems to have increased in recent weeks.
Perrin doesn’t have a pet, but she has had several residents who do have small pets come to her, hoping for help dealing with their concerns.
She is conflicted, she says, knowing subdivisions such as Garrison Village and The Village were once part of the coyotes’ habitat, and that residents are encouraged to learn to live with them safely. But she is also concerned for her neighbours and their pets.
A meeting at the community centre in the spring of 2019 brought up some of the issues of residents, and there has been much said since, but Perrin says she’s lived in The Village for 20 years, and she feels the situation is worse now than it’s ever been.
There are three videos circulating, she says, one showing a coyote following — looking like it’s chasing — a woman dragging her dog to her front porch, screaming.
A second, like the first captured by a front door camera, shows a couple sitting on their porch. A coyote went right up onto the porch, as the couple grabbed their dog and hurried inside.
The most recent shows a coyote at Lower Canada and Confederation Drive, on Sunday. Perrin says she’s only heard the story, not seen the video, but apparently a coyote followed a woman walking her small dog. There were two cars honking, and four people yelling, trying to chase it off, but the noise didn’t deter it. The coyote got hold of the dog, but it was wearing a coat, “and it flew out of the coat while the coyote had it in its mouth, shaking it.”
Another neighbour came out of a nearby home, managed to distract the coyote, and the woman and her dog got into one of the cars, to safety.
The coyote made its way down Confederation Drive, went into a few open garages, got into some garbage bags, and disappeared into a backyard.
“It is pretty standard these days to walk in the neighbourhood and end up speaking to someone who has had to deal with coyotes, both in sightings, and ‘stalking,’” says Perrin. “It seems to be all we talk about these days in the hood.”
And rightfully so, she adds, “as some coyotes have become more brazen.”
Perrin says some of the locals have been able to determine that it may be two particular young male coyotes “who appear to be the most brazen and courageous with people and pets (not to mention garbage).”
A recent Village Community Association (VCA) newsletter mentions that there have been several recent sightings of “an aggressive coyote approaching residents, both day and evening,” and asks residents to be aware of their surroundings, keep their dogs on a leash, and cats indoors.
It says the association is working with the town and Coyote Watch Canada “to find ways to ensure our safety in The Village.”
Mona Babin, president of the VCA and author of the newsletter, says she hears mostly from members of the VCA, as opposed to the older subdivision of Garrison Village.
Although her newsletter is only distributed to The Village residents, she is reaching out to friends in Garrison Village to help distribute it to their neighbours, who are also concerned about the coyotes.
Having lived in The Village for about six years, Babin has heard stories of coyotes before, but saw her first when out for a walk last Sunday. She admits to feeling uncomfortable — she didn’t have a dog or a stroller with her, but still felt she needed to keep her distance.
“It’s a beautiful animal, not massive, but everything I’ve heard has make me uncomfortable,” she says.
Babin understands why residents are nervous, and she wants the current situation to end “as quickly as possible.”
But she finds herself coming at the problem from a different direction. “We know what the solution is. We just have to do it.”
She believes the town is doing what it can to help educate people, as is she. The solution lies with what is attracting the coyotes to their neighbourhood — a food source, which in this case is garbage bags they can rip open, and the mice and rats attracted to the many bird feeders.
Garbage needs to be put in bins with lids, and as the town asks, put out the morning of garbage day if possible.
There are no bylaws requiring that, Babin says, so the town can’t enforce it, but it would be the best way to eliminate that food source.
“I know people love to watch birds at their bird feeders,” she says, but as an alternative, she suggests instead residents could add plants to their gardens which attract birds, but not the mice and rats.
“And there is never one mouse, there are more likely to be100,” she says. People who have bird feeders say they don’t have mice, she adds, but likely they do — they just don’t know it.
The third problem is well-intentioned people who like to feed wildlife, believing they’re helping the animals. “Animals can figure it out for themselves. They don’t need help,” she says.
Without food sources in the two subdivisions, they’ll go back to eating what they find in the fields where their dens are, and where they should be staying.
“If a coyote knows he can find his breakfast on a porch, that’s where he’ll head. That’s his Starbucks. And that’s exactly what is happening.”
Babin adds, “we can live together well,” but it is going to be an ongoing problem if residents don’t eliminate food sources.
During Monday evening’s committee of the whole meeting, Lord Mayor Betty Disero and CAO Marnie Cluckie spoke of the coyote situation, and Cluckie said, as she did last week, that safety is of the upmost importance, and the town is taking the concerns very seriously. She listed the steps they are taking, including reaching out to the Niagara Regional Police, the Lincoln County Humane Society, and Coyote Watch Canada. This week, she added the Ministry of Natural Resources to her list, and said there is talk of holding a community meeting.
Cluckie’s message to residents was to make a lot of noise when confronted by a coyote, and call 911 in a situation such as a coyote cornering a human, or showing signs of rabies.
She said more extreme measures, such as shooting or relocating a coyote, are not legal, except in the case of an extremely aggressive animal.
Disero told Cluckie although she knows the town is doing everything it can, “I’m not sure the perception of the public is that we’re doing everything we can. I know you and staff are working hard and trying to come to terms with what we can and can’t do with regards to coyotes, and I appreciate the extra hours,” she said, but the public perception remains that it’s not enough.
Her calls are coming from a larger area than Garrison Village and The Village, she added, taking in John and Centre Street.
She also told Cluckie in her walks, she has noticed town parks don’t all have lids on their garbage cans, and garbage is overflowing, asking that staff “do something in our own house” that they are asking residents to do.
Cluckie says the town has a letter coming out, with a new educational package that will be distributed through the VCA, and that she will ask staff to ensure garbage cans have lids.