Coyote Education and Response

Purpose statement

To outline the Town of Oakville’s strategy to educate the community to be coyote wise and to respond to incidents involving coyotes.

Scope

This procedure applies to staff and anyone acting on behalf of the town, residents and visitors of the Town of Oakville (town) as well as all property under the authority of the Town of Oakville, and private property within the Town of Oakville.

Procedure

This procedure is based on best known coyote management practices, scientific research as well as understanding of coyote ecology and biology in an urban setting. The procedure is based on the following principles:

  1. Human safety is a priority in managing human-coyote interactions.
  2. Coyotes serve an important role in ecosystems by helping to control the population of rodents, Canada geese, rabbits and other urban mammals.
  3. Preventive practices such as reduction and removal of food attractants, habitat modification and responding appropriately when interacting with wildlife are key to minimizing potential interactions with coyotes.
  4. Solutions for coyote conflicts must address both problematic coyote behaviours (such as aggression toward people) and problematic human behaviours (intentionally or unintentionally feeding coyotes and leaving pets outside unattended) that contribute to conflicts.
  5. Coyote removal programs are ineffective for reducing coyote population sizes or preventing human-coyote conflicts, and are only considered in biting or sick coyotes.
  6. A community-wide wildlife and education program is necessary for achieving coexistence among people, pets and coyotes.

Coyotes

Coyotes are found in urban areas throughout North America, including Oakville. Seeing a coyote in Oakville is not cause for alarm as urban areas provide food, shelter and water, making these settings attractive to coyotes and other wildlife.

Coyotes are curious, smart and adaptable. They are not considered a significant risk to people and usually avoid people whenever possible. However, they are wild animals and people must practice proper coyote management activities to avoid contact.

Contacts

To report a coyote sighting, den, or interaction use the online coyote reporting form or call ServiceOakville 905-845-6601.

If a coyote appears to sick or injured, contact the Oakville & Milton Humane Society at 905-845-1551.

If a coyote poses an immediate threat to human safety, call 911.

Best practices to deter coyotes from property

Food

Intentional and unintentional feeding can lead coyotes to associate humans with sources of food, which can result in negative interactions among coyotes, people and pets.

To reduce food attractants:

  • Never feed or leave food out for a coyote
  • Remove food sources from yards, including birdseed and fruit that has fallen to the ground 
  • Avoid feeding pets outside. If it is necessary, remove bowls and any leftover food
  • Store garbage, compost and pet food in a place coyotes and other wildlife cannot access
  • Keep garbage in containers with tightfitting lids. Place containers curbside on the morning of collection
  • Do not leave food waste in town garbage cans in parks, this may attract rodents which may attract coyotes

Water

Remove water sources such as water bowls for pets and watering cans.

Shelter

Spring is denning and pupping season where coyotes concentrate their activities around dens or burrows to shelter their young. To reduce attraction to private property: remove debris, dead brush and wood piles; cut long grass; secure any gaps in sheds, decks, crawl spaces or foundation walls; secure any buildings on the property.

Unattended pets

Coyotes may consider pets as potential prey or possible competitors for food sources. To minimize risk to pets, do not leave them outside unattended.

Free-roaming pets, especially cats may attract coyotes into neighbourhoods. Coyotes may seek out or attack small prey which could include cats, rabbits and unattended small dogs, and does not indicate a danger for people. Dogs can be vulnerable if coyotes are accustomed or habituated to people (usually due to feeding) or coyotes who are protecting their territory and pups (usually during breeding season). Attacks on larger dogs are rare, and generally only occurs when dogs are off-leash or coyotes feel their territory or pups are threatened (generally during their breeding season - January to March).

Coexistence approach and techniques

The town supports the following coyote coexistence approach and techniques:

Monitoring and data

The town has established an online coyote reporting form for residents to report coyote behaviour including sightings and interactions.

The town collects and monitors data to help reduce human-coyote interactions which is supported by targeted education and awareness campaigns, conflict mitigation efforts and investigation, where appropriate. With the data, the town has developed an online map identifying where coyotes have been reported. The map is updated as information is reported. Residents should use this information to employ best practices on private property and when planning outings in public spaces.

Education and outreach

The town uses a variety of communication methods to provide information so residents can make appropriate decisions about safety and managing private property and pets.

Some of the methods include: information on oakville.ca with resources and facts; a hazing video; social media campaigns; working with community partners including the Oakville & Milton Humane Society, Coyote Watch Canada and Oakvillegreen; signage where coyotes are active with information on what to do if a coyote is encountered; literature and public outreach in areas where coyotes have been reported and are coexisting.

The town has implemented several by-laws to address issues and support concerns of the community. Relevant by-laws include those that address the feeding of wildlife, failing to keep a dog on a leash; private property maintenance, and littering. These by-laws are in place to help ensure safety for the community, those who do not comply could face penalties including fines. The town uses its communication channels to provide information about these by-laws.

Hazing

Hazing is an activity or series of activities meant to re-establish or maintain coyotes’ fear of people; to discourage coyotes from entering areas where people are present (such as parks and yards); to discourage coyotes from approaching people and pets; and to increase awareness about coyote behaviour and involve the community in coyote management efforts.

Hazing involves generating loud noises, making humans appear big by waving arms over head, spraying water, shining bright lights, using motion sensors, throwing objects near, but not at the animal. Using a variety of different hazing tools is critical because coyotes can become desensitized to the continued use of just one technique, sound or action. It is important to continue hazing the animal until it leaves the area.

The town has created a hazing video to support community safety efforts, it is available on oakville.ca.

Relocation or removal

The town does not support the use of relocation or removal programs to deal with coyotes based on human risk assessment, poor outcomes and restrictions through provincial legislation. The use of firearms, including tranquilizer guns, is not permitted in the Town of Oakville.

Town property

The town must act in accordance with the provincial government’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act which states that captured wildlife must (generally) be returned within 24 hours and within one kilometre of where it was caught. Research shows that based on their ability to travel long distances, coyotes often return to their original location within a short period of time. When removed from an area, coyotes are often quickly replaced by transient coyotes looking for a vacant home range.

Removal programs have proven ineffective to reduce coyote populations or address root causes of conflicts. Research has shown that when lethally controlled, coyotes exhibit a “rebound effect” (a surge in their reproductive rates), allowing for quick regeneration of their population numbers and may open a gap for coyotes from other areas to move into the territories. The capture or humane lethal removal of a coyote will only be considered in the event of an unprovoked, confirmed attack on a person or where a coyote has been determined to be sick or injured by appropriate experts. Removal will focus on the individual coyote(s) only, and requires significant investigation efforts to ensure the correct animal(s) is removed. This will only be carried out by a qualified expert.

Private property

Private property owners who trap or kill coyotes are responsible for ensuring they comply with all applicable provincial and municipal regulations. The town is not responsible for managing coyotes on private property and is not liable for any risks or outcomes that may occur if a private property owner chooses to engage in actions intended to trap or kill a coyote on their property. Respect for other wildlife and pets must be considered.

Response strategy

The town has a detailed strategy to respond to coyotes, attached as Appendix A.

Definitions

Approached, followed or shadowed: a direct meeting between person or pet and coyotes with no physical contact and which is without incident. This will include the coyote coming near or following the person/pet but where the coyote maintains a two metre distance or shadow from a distance.

Coexistence: people and coyotes exist together. people take an active role in helping coyotes in their community stay wild by removing attractants, taking responsibility for pet safety, hazing coyotes in their neighbourhood and learning about coyote ecology and

Physical interaction with domestic animal (pet): coyote kills or injures a pet. Coyote must come within two metres and is seen as a threat. It may include a coyote that exhibits any of the following behaviours: growling, baring teeth, lunging or making physical contact with the pet.

Physical interaction with person: a coyote comes within two metres of a person. This type of encounter may result in a bite of a person by a coyote. A physical interaction may be provoked where the person encourages the coyote to engage. It may include a coyote that exhibits any of the following behaviours: growling, baring teeth, lunging or making physical contact with the person. Examples include a person hand-feeding a coyote, approaching a coyote with pups or intervening in a coyote attack on a pet. The interaction may be unprovoked where the person does not encourage the coyote to engage but results in the coyote coming closer to the person than two metres.

Provoked: an attack where the involved person encourages the coyote to engage. Examples include a person hand-feeding a coyote and approaching a coyote with pups.

Unprovoked: An attack where the involved person does not encourage the coyote to engage.

Sighting: a visual observation of a coyote. A sighting may occur at any time of the day or night. There is no interaction between the coyote and a person or pet although coyotes may watch or shadow from a distance. This may also include acts of noticing signs of coyotes, such as tracks, scat, or vocalizations, or witnessing a coyote in the neighbourhood.

Wildlife: refers only to wild vertebrates such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. It does not include domesticated animals.

Responsibilities

Municipal Enforcement Services department is responsible for promoting, tracking, evaluating, responding and reporting on implementation of the procedure

Economic Development and Strategic Initiatives department will support in the research of behavioural science of coyotes as well as preparing seasonal communications and web content. They are also responsible for overseeing and evaluating the Oakville Wildlife strategy

Parks and Open Space department is responsible for managing coyote signage on trails and parkland as well maintaining ensuring attractants are removed from parkland.

Oakville & Milton Humane Society is responsible for calls relating to sick or injured coyotes and wildlife.

Coyote Watch is contracted by the town to provide expertise in coyote behaviour and assists with more in depth investigations. They also provide support in public meetings.

Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry installs coyote signage along trails and in parks. They may audit parklands for coyote attractants.

Residents are responsible for ensuring that attractants are removed from private property, adhering to provincial regulation and municipal by-laws with reference to maintaining animals on a leash, keeping cats indoors, removing food and other attractants to coyotes. Residents are encouraged to report coyote sightings and incidents through the Coyote Reporting Form and adhere to good citizenship in maintaining the biodiversity of the environment. 

Procedure details

Procedure Number: MS-REG-001-005
Parent Policy: MS-REG-001
Section: Municipal Services
Sub-Section: Regulatory Services
Author: Municipal Enforcement Services
Authority: CAO
Effective Date: 2020 June 23
Review by Date: 2025

References

Online Coyote Reporting Form
Appendix A: Coyote Response Strategy (pdf)
Environmental Sustainability policy
Wildlife procedure
Animal Control By-law
Property Standards By-law
Firearms By-law
Lot Maintenance By-law
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act
Solving problems with coyotes, The Humane Society of the United States