Coyotes inhabit everywhere from Central America to the Canadian territories. Originally they resided in the west, but now they reside all across Canada including Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland since the 1980s – they crossed over when ice tied the islands to the mainland.
They are somewhat opportunistic in their menu choices, but mammals make up about 90 per cent of their diet. In and near human living areas, a common target for these hungry carnivores are domestic pets such as house cats and small dogs. Larger dogs are also taken in situations where more than one coyote is involved.
They are unlike many other predators in that they have a tolerance for human presence, which allows them to live close by human development.
As in many other human/wildlife conflict situations, the humans create the problem by intentionally putting food out for the foxes and coyotes. The people are doing that with sincere, sympathetic intentions, but that gives these predators a reason to come into backyards where food has been put out and also explore other backyards searching for more of the same.
Bread and scraps for winter birds has the same effect as does feeding your own dog outside where sometimes all the food is not eaten right away and some is spilled around the dish. It is important to realize that often these wild animals are continually on the verge of starvation so they will jump at any chance for something to eat.
Coyotes are not only dangerous to your family pet, but a Google search will list hundreds and hundreds of coyote attacks on humans of all ages. There are even two fatal attacks: one on a 4-year-old girl in California and one on a 19-year-old woman in Nova Scotia.
People are sometimes bitten because they intentionally or otherwise corner a coyote – or more commonly the person is trying to rescue the family pet and this also includes some pets on a leash at the time.
Whitehorse has a substantial – but uncounted – coyote population and they are common to see both day and night in all areas of town. Some of these are transient and exploring the mealtime possibilities, while many others are full time residents living off household pets, restaurant or household garbage and intentional handouts provided for that purpose.
Because they are “wild” animals, we expect them to keep their distance from us but it won’t take you many contacts with these canines to see that many of them are not afraid at all of getting within 20 to 40 feet of you while displaying no hesitation whatsoever.
So far there have not been any really serious injuries from coyote attacks in Whitehorse, but there have been a number of people chased, children knocked down and bitten and even adults bitten or menaced by more than just a single coyote.
Recently, a coyote involved in an attack and biting of a child was shot by officers and a boiled egg was found in its stomach. That find certainly supports the suggestion that people are intentionally feeding these sometimes very dangerous animals.