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Mayor’s Monday Mailbag – Sept. 19, 2022 – What is the City Doing to Increase Safety from Coyote Attacks?

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward Mailbag

Welcome to the Mayor’s Monday Mailbag, an initiative Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward and the Mayor’s Office launched to share weekly answers to questions from the public we’ve received through our main email inbox at mayor@burlington.ca or the Mayor’s social media platforms.

At the end of the month, we publish a roundup of those most pressing questions we’ve received in the weeks prior.

Mayor’s Monday Mailbag – Sept. 19, 2022

QUESTION:

“Why has there been an increase in coyote attacks in Burlington and what is the city doing to ensure the safety of residents? Why can’t the aggressive coyotes be relocated?”

ANSWER:

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward has connected with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) –through support from Burlington MPP Natalie Pierre and Oakville North-Burlington MPP Effie Triantafilopoulos — and gained expert advice on why there has been frequent coyote attacks in our city recently and further recommendations on how to handle this critical situation.

Based on the advice we’ve received from staff at the MNRF, and field researchers with Coyote Watch Canada, the aggressive behaviours we’ve recently experienced is the direct result of illegal feeding of wildlife — either intentionally or unintentionally.  This has conditioned certain coyotes to view people as a source of food and since these wild animals cannot differentiate between individuals, they become aggressive when food is not provided during an encounter with a person.

Once a coyote has been conditioned to no longer fear people, the trait cannot be unlearned. In addition, if they attack a person, it is our responsibility as a municipality to unfortunately eliminate those animals as a result. The elimination of a coyote is done by a Certified Wildlife Control Professional with support from City Animal Control staff and Halton Regional Police Service.

The elimination of a wild animal is not an outcome Council or City staff want to see occur, so we cannot stress enough how critical it is not to feed local wildlife, either intentionally or unintentionally. Please make sure you properly dispose of your food waste — being mindful of how your garbage is placed outside — so that it does not become an unintended potential food source for animals.  We all need to do our part to keep each other safe with the wildlife that lives among us.

Council and City staff are taking this situation very seriously. The unanimous approval by Council, at a special meeting on Sept. 14, of 17 significant additional actions under our Coyote Response Strategy, is a clear indication to our community of our commitment to ensuring public safety and an end to these attacks. Some of these approved coyote management actions include increased dumping fines, targeted cutback of vegetation, and engaging with coyote specialist resources. You can read more about it here on the Mayor’s website.

In addition, the City’s Bylaw Department has been looking into potential private properties that might be neglected and could be ideal denning places for coyotes. Bylaw Officers are being dispatched and prioritizing bringing these properties to meet bylaw requirements and to remove any opportunities for coyotes to stay where they should not be. Temporary signage has been put up in areas where attacks have occurred to warn residents, the City has provided residents with free whistles at pickup sites across the city so they can be used as a hazing tactic if they encounter a coyote — these are standard whistles and can also be purchased from any sports vendor.

Mayor Meed Ward, Council and City of Burlington staff thank the residents who have reached out to us and the local community group Burlington Oakville Coyote Management for their research and recommendations on coyote management in our city.

Why can’t the aggressive coyotes be relocated?

According to experts from MNRF, once coyotes become unafraid and habituated to human feeding, it is very difficult — if not impossible — to rehabilitate them to re-establish a natural fear of humans. Hazing can be effective, but only in the early stages of habituation.

When it comes to relocation, coyotes are territorial — they will defend their home range against other invading coyotes. The idea of re-introducing a habituated coyote into another location already inhabited by coyotes is very unlikely to be a good outcome for human residents (as it shifts the problem elsewhere) or the relocated coyote itself. Consequently, the MNRF’s position is that relocation is not an option.

With respect to relocating to a wildlife sanctuary, these sanctuaries are intended to rehabilitate wild animals with the objective of returning them to the wild.  In the case of coyotes habituated to humans, MNRF has been clear it is very difficult, if not impossible, to unteach this behaviour. So, as a result, relocation to a wildlife sanctuary would not be appropriate.

Additionally, the intent behind why the MNRF has a policy that restricts the release distance for wildlife is to:

  • Prevent the spread of diseases and parasites;
  • Give the animal its best chance of survival by ensuring that it is released close to its home range;
  • Reduce potential for problem activity elsewhere;
  • Ensure carrying capacity not surpassed in an area; and
  • Prevent exchange of genetic materials among different populations.

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A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made. As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington. The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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