Living so close to such a wonderland of natural beauty, towering trees, babbling brooks and amazing cliff-side outlooks we often forget that Stanley Park is in fact filled with wildlife and is by no means completely urban.
Even though ducks, swans, raccoons, squirrels and skunks are the animals spotted most often, recently coyote sightings and attacks have become more frequent and reports of attacks on pets are causing concern.
There are between 2,000 and 3,000 coyotes believed to be living in the Lower Mainland. I know my niece has “coyote drills” at her school in case one is spotted coming out of the woods during recess but they are also no strangers to Stanley Park.
In January there were several reports of attacks on small dogs and even a swan (which wouldn’t have been able to fly away in defense, as I discovered a while back). I also received an email to my contact form about these cases and a cause for concern.
The Stanley Park Ecology Society is one of my favourite Stanley Park resources, and where I often find information about nature walks, hikes, tree planting and bird watching updates. The SPES has been tracking coyote sightings since January 2009 and there are more than a dozen, including some that read in bold “pet attack” as recent as February 19th.
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I built this map based on 2009 data so far, you can also view the SPES archives for more information or patterns.
It’s been said that, “coyote attacks are not precipitated by hunger but for their lack of fear for humans.” [source] You can see evidence of such when you’re anywhere in Stanley Park — birds come closer as do squirrels and other animals who are used to being fed by passers-by.
A few years ago there was a rabies outbreak within skunks and raccoons, and even though we spot those baby raccoons acting all cute and roley-poley playing with each other I know that their parents are some place nearby – and they pretty much make me want to back away slowly, not stop and take a photo.
The SPES and the City have been hopeful in the past that we can “coexist with coyotes through communication.” On the SPES website you can find several resources including the Coexisting with Coyotes brochure and poster, a kit for parent advisory committees, learn about school presentations, guided walks through the “Coyote Zones” in your area, and report a coyote sighting in your city. You can also learn to identify coyotes based on tracks and other signs.
If you have a small pet, keep them under your full control when you venture into coyote country (namely the spots on the map, which are mostly near parks) and never approach, feed, or engage a coyote. Also, you can call (604) 681-WILD or email coyotes [at] stanleyparkecology.ca should you have any questions, comments or concerns about coyote activity.