Stop giving ‘food rewards’ to wildlife, says Coyote Watch Canada

A lone coyote spotted daily along the Fort Erie waterfront for about a month has made itself so conspicuous due to the “harmful handouts” of people feeding the wild animal.

That’s according to Lesley Sampson, executive director of Coyote Watch Canada, a Niagara-based group that works with municipalities across the country to offer advice on how communities can reduce their sightings, but also learn to live in harmony. with the animals.

Providing them with food is a terrible idea, she warned.

“It’s the number one precursor to increased encounters,” Samspson said, adding that members of the group have made a few visits recently to monitor the healthy-looking adult coyote that roams the Niagara Parkway-Lakeshore area. Road on land owned by Niagara Parks Commission.

A well-used parking lot is where he can be spotted most often, being dumped dog food and lunch meat, Sampson said, pointing to a photo she provided of the coyote munching on deli meats.

“All it takes is one person tossing a sandwich out of the car at them while they’re parked,” she said, admitting that every community has “chronic foods” when it comes to wildlife.

“All of these foods contribute to poor health and a poor immune system, she said, adding that coyotes “need all the goodness they can get from foraging and prey. ‘other species’.

She also said social media posts suggest the animal is in poor health, but she disagrees, noting that some of the hair loss it appears to be from shedding his winter coat.

“There’s nothing wrong with this animal,” she said.

People need to stop providing “food rewards” to the coyote, whose sex Sampson didn’t know.

“That behavior will change as soon as food stops being provided,” Sampson said, adding that it’s important these animals rely on their natural instincts and not on an easy snack tossed out a car window.

“It’s a human problem,” she said, adding that this coyote is still able to hunt on its own, and that “ethical” trappers wouldn’t take the case because they are aware that it is so often out in the open because of the food it contains. given.

Sampson said a maximum fine of $5,000 in Niagara Falls for feeding wildlife has been helpful in that part of the region. Niagara Parks and the City of Fort Erie do not have similar policies.

David Adames, Niagara Parks general manager, said there was a “significant issue” with the public feeding the coyote, and his staff are “actively monitoring” the situation.

He also said temporary signage in the parking lot he visits each night around 6 p.m. is being considered, reminding people not to feed wild animals.

He expects him to “move on” once the public perception that he needs food subsides.

If this becomes a “dangerous situation for the public,” Niagara Parks will work with the appropriate animal control agencies on a plan, Adames said, noting that no sightings have been reported directly to the parks commission.

In the meantime, he reiterates the importance for people not to tread on it or feed it, and for dog owners to be aware that this stretch of trail and waterfront land is occupied by the latest attraction. involuntary tourist.

Animal control services in Fort Erie were taken over by the Lincoln County Humane Society on June 1.

Executive Director Kevin Strooband said Monday his agency was aware of the animal’s existence, but no formal complaints had been received.

His team learned that it was a “beautiful coyote”.

He agrees with the messages issued by Coyote Watch Canada — not to feed the animal.

He will likely move once the area stops being a source of his meals, and the public will have to get used to his presence until that happens.

“This part of Fort Erie — this is their habitat. This is their territory and this is where they live,” he said.

There was a similar “big deal” in 2019 and earlier this year in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

There have been reports of coyotes “almost attacking people” and dogs.

But once the advice not to feed them was finally heeded, sightings dwindled until they became non-existent in specific places where they were seen the most.

“They are very smart and they need to be trained by us,” he said.

He agreed that signage in the parking lot would be a good idea.

“It’s always good to let people know,” he said, adding that creating a wildlife policy with the city is something they are considering.

There are other reasons coyotes make appearances in neighborhoods, one being an influx of development.

New infrastructure such as roads, fencing and urbanization are impacting how wildlife move through communities, Coyote Watch Canada says on its website.

“Coyotes and other wildlife must adapt to their ever-changing world and may be forced to establish new territories for hunting and foraging,” the organization said.

That’s a problem, it seems, North Welland resident Lori Lecompte, who lives in the Quaker Road area on Wellandvale Drive.

She and several neighbors have seen coyotes, usually just one, several times a week lately.

“They seem to be even more present on trash night,” she said, adding that she hopes families in the area are aware of their presence and should do what they can to prevent them. to make their residential neighborhood a permanent home.

“I know when I go out at night I’m extremely careful,” she said.

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