Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Howling Fantods

After poor little Zoe the chihuahua was abducted by a coyote in the Beaches in late February, media both near and far covered the story and solicited reams of passionate comments. In addition to local residents concerned with the safety of their pets and children, rural folks also weighed in reminding us that we’re not the only ones with a problem.

In the frenzied days immediately following the Zoe incident, the initial response was to euthanize the animal (dubbed “Neville” by local residents), but this tactic proved to be wildly unpopular, so they changed tack and decided to trap and relocate it humanely. Normally, the Ministry of Natural Resources advises that animals be moved no further than one kilometre from their origin because of the possibility of spreading disease (e.g. rabies) and the fact that beasties don’t do well when introduced into unfamiliar territory. For this particular case, Toronto Animal Services got special permission to move the coyote further away in order to get him outside city limits. (As of today, Neville still remains at large.)

The problem, as outlined by Owen Roberts in The Guelph Mercury and by some commenters, is that the country already has their fair share of coyotes that not only interfere with pets, but also with livestock (i.e. their livelihoods). Unwanted wildlife dumped in the countryside, especially urbanized animals that rely on humans for their food, most likely will either perish or seek out new hosts.

The end result is a quandary where wildlife is first being unintentionally domesticated, and then pushed into the narrowing spaces between all of us humans, city and country dwellers alike.

And coyotes aren’t even close to being the most populous wild species in the city. Kathleen Quinn, a supervisor at Toronto Animal Services, tells me that the top five (according to their numbers) are raccoons, squirrels, skunks, opossums, and groundhogs. The difference is that these animals are generally easier to live with and have not made off with anyone’s pets (yet).

When I asked Jolanta Kowalski, Senior Media Relations Officer at the Ministry of Natural Resources, if there is a province-wide plan for dealing with problematic species like coyotes, she told me “the best way to avoid problems with any wildlife is to remove any food attractants...and never feed them. Learning to peacefully co-exist with wildlife is always the preferred option.” So it seems all we can do is try to make our dumpsters and backyards less of a buffet, and hope these critters prefer the wild...or what's left of it.

1 comment:

tva said...

I've seen more foxes in the city than anything else. When there was a golf course down by the old SkyDome ('member that afternoon?), there were foxes there that would play around and go out and steal your balls after you hit them.

You might describe this particular craft coyote as...wiley?