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City urges caution for busy coyote season in Toronto
Pet owners worry about coyotes entering backyards.
March 2, 2017
Peter Goffin

Eric Shabsove had never heard anything like it. There was a terrible screaming coming from his Beaches-area backyard on an otherwise quiet October evening.

Running outside, Shabsove saw a coyote carrying away his family dog, Tivo.

“I ran as fast as I can after it, and when it hit the back fence it just dropped my dog and took off,” said Shabsove.

Tivo, a 23-pound Poodle-Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix, needed close to 60 staples to close his wounds, and spent four days recovering in the Shabsoves’ bed.

“It was hard to watch,” Shabsove said. “Our kids didn’t know if he was going to make it or not.”

Now, over four months later, Tivo is doing well.

But Shabsove, whose home backs onto the Glen Stewart Ravine near Kingston Rd. and Main St., still regularly hears coyotes yelping at night.

It’s peak season for coyote sightings, said Brent Patterson, a researcher with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

“The young animals that were born last year have spent most of their life in their parents’ territory (but now) are starting to disperse and are wandering around looking for their own mate, their own territory,” Patterson said.

The City of Toronto tweeted Wednesday that seeing coyotes in Toronto “is normal” at this time of year, and directed citizens to online materials on what to do if you encounter a coyote.

Nearly 350 coyote sightings were reported to the City of Toronto in 2015.

Statistics on 2016 sightings are still being compiled and will be made public about a month from now, said city spokesperson Bruce Hawkins.

Coyotes generally steer clear of humans but, Toronto Animal Services says, they are attracted to urban areas by the prospect of food and shelter.

Dog and cat owners were put on alert in 2014 after several pets in the GTA , and in some cases killed, by coyotes.

And an eight-year-old Oakville girl was bitten by a coyote in 2012.

Toronto Animal Services says it will remove a coyote from a populated area if it is sick or injured or has attacked a human. But the city deems coyote attacks on other animals, even pets, to be “natural coyote behaviour.”

The best way to avoid run-ins with coyotes is to ensure there’s nothing around for them to eat, Patterson said. That means keeping garbage and pet food secure from scrounging animals and cleaning up fallen fruit from backyards.

“A lot of people would be surprised to learn how far those simple steps would go to reducing the overall number of coyotes,” said Patterson.

Coyotes are highly productive and resilient animals, he added, so relocating them or even culling them is unlikely to limit their numbers.

If you encounter a coyote, the city’s materials say, you should stand up and raise your arms to make yourself look as big and intimidating as possible, stomp your feet, clap your hands and yell, and throw a stick or stone or other object in the coyote’s direction to try to scare it off.

While trying to frighten the coyote, you should maintain eye contact and slowly back away. If you run away from a coyote, the city says, it is likely to chase you.

Toronto Animal Services recommends that pets be supervised whenever they go outside, and kept on a leash except in contained areas. If you see a coyote approaching, you should pick your pet up, if possible, they say.

The Shabsoves have stopped letting Tivo go out in the backyard alone.

“No dog is safe, no cat is safe, I can tell you that much,” Shabsove said.

“You don’t want any family to go through what we did.”