Coyotes, Stanley Park, Jordan Heathrow discussed on The Big Story
Neighborhood in. Canada made dangerous by aggressive coyotes. In most cases the animals have lived in these places for years going about their business and mostly avoiding interactions with humans. So what has changed. Are there more coyotes or are they just becoming more aggressive. And if so why what. Options to governments have for dealing with the coyotes beyond the obvious one what should the public now in the increasing likelihood that they encounter an aggressive coyote on hike or in their city. Is this a permanent behavioral change or is there a way that we can bring the coyotes behavior back in line and if we can't what becomes of these parks and the people who use them. I'm jordan heathrow. This is the big story. Dr colleen cassidy. Saint clair is a professor of biological sciences. At the university of alberta she specializes in the study of how animals including peyote behave in landscapes that have been altered by humans. Hello colleen hi jordan. Thanks for having me no problem. I'm glad you could spare the time. Why don't you start by telling us what's happening right now. In stanley park in vancouver. But also i understand. It's not just in stanley park. Sure well what i know of stanley part comes to me from the news so similar to what other people know. There's an unprecedented situation going on there. Where there is spend thirty Documented attacks on people by coyotes. We're coyotes have bitten people in the past six and a half months. That's extremely unusual. I have never heard of something. Like that. Happening anywhere in north america previously. But nor have. I heard about the situation. That's occurring in calgary in the last month and calgary eight. People have also been bitten by coyotes. Eight different people so you mentioned that. This is incredibly unusual. How do coyotes normally behave in spaces that they share with humans well normal has been a sliding slope for many years decades really over about the past twenty years sir spin increasing reports from across north america of coyotes in urban areas probably coyotes always danced around urban areas and were seen there occasionally by people. There's a at edmonton. That was known as coyote alley a hundred years ago so it's not entirely new. That coyotes are in urban areas. But they just seem to be more. Abundant and boulder and that's occurring in urban areas across the continent from vancouver to halifax from phoenix. T. l. o. Knife pretty much. Every urban area in north america. That i've heard of anyway has a population of urban coyotes. And that's a fairly new phenomenon. That's interesting i mean. We live in the east end of toronto here and there are certainly some of them that you will occasionally see walking down the street or somebody will put up a sign a warning dog owners say that one has been spotted in this park. But what we're talking about. Sounds like a whole 'nother level. Yeah i think that we are Undergoing a bit of a sea change here and the relationship between people and coyotes in urban areas has been changing for quite a while. i think but It's reaching a point now where it's causing a great deal of concern and loss of a sense of security for people in areas that are really quite urban and quite designated for for people. And in my estimation we've we've reached a bit of a tipping point tolerance for urban coyotes by an increasing. Proportion of the population is changing rapidly. Right now because of these attacks on people particularly when they when they involve children so there was quite a dramatic. One in burnaby was three years ago. Where a toddler was attacked and bitten repeatedly on his head needing something like thirty five stitches. That attack occurred in broad daylight on on the driveway. The family home so not not. Deep in the woods there was attack an attack on a toddler in edmonton last Spring an urban park surrounded by residential areas where people just don't expect that kind of thing to occur and then this most recent attack in the parking lot of the aquarium of stanley park on a toddler. So those situations are examples of the ones people just will not tolerate and understandably so i think so. Let's get to the money question. Then do we have any idea what's causing this more aggressive behavior. Well there's quite a bit of speculation. And i think like many complex ecological situations where there's not one explanation. There's not one factor and there's not even just a some of factors thurs interaction among many factors. So i'll rattle off a few of the ones that i think have created this acute situation recently except for the toddler in burnaby and that animal was associated with food conditioning. I'll come back that that later. These other attacks described the thirty in in stanley park over the last six months. The eight and calgary the The one in coronation park in edmonton last year. They've all occurred during the pandemic. I think that has been a very complicated situation for wildlife. They suddenly had a rapid change in human behavior where everyone disappeared from the road. Send from the parks for a little while then. Suddenly people started to flood into the parks but they stayed off the roads at might really changed movement patterns and it might have really reduced the number of animals that are killed on roads that that's been documented by others. At the same time there was a lot more people occupying a lot more spaces in natural areas. So more coyotes. More people might have created situations of more competition for space. More territoriality by coyotes. I wonder whether there's also been more feeding by people. There is also a problem with a lot more garbage with people using parks and that's set trajectory. That's been going on for years. I suppose but it got much more significant so if we put all of these things together. There's a lot more resources worth defending. There's a lot more people getting in the way. There's a lot more competition among coyotes for territories and more valuable territories. And i think that might be some of what's causing this more aggressive behavior along a continuum. That's that's much older than the pandemic. So in that sense you know there are all these contributing factors but ultimately what we're seeing in these attacks is these animals defending their territory from what they.