I love spotting wildlife. I recently spent a few days filming animals at an amazing sanctuary in Muskoka for a new TV project. I am lucky enough to live close to several parks, the beautiful Evergreen Brickworks, and a system of ravines that run through Toronto. I have seen beaver, deer, squirrels, bees, turtles, fish, raccoons, bunnies, snakes, chipmunks, a skunk and lots of different birds.
Coyote sightings have become more and more common in urban areas. I had heard there are many living near me but had not seen one myself. One friend recently lost her little wiener dog from her backyard – she backs on to the ravine and it was dusk when she let him out for a pee. The coyote must have jumped her fence, was hiding in the bushes and attacked incredibly fast. Then last week, one of my closest friends lost her beautiful cat Casey (RIP), star of our video the Great Catsby.
This was unusual as the coyote was walking up the street at 10.00am and attacked Casey right in front of her house with people screaming at it from next door.
My Close Call With Kilo The Pug
I take Kilo the Pug for several short walks a day on our street always on a short leash and close to me. On Friday at 11.00 am, we were right opposite our house. Kilo was sniffing around and leaving some peemail on his favorite fire hydrant. I looked up the street towards the train tracks and saw a car going slowly pointing at a big dog off leash about 3 houses up on the other side of the road (same side as my house).
I thought that the “dog” was walking off leash which really annoyed me or maybe it had escaped. Kilo is terrified of large dogs and will often bark at them and cause an issue so I picked him up and backed up a little behind a car so he couldn’t see. As the “dog” reached my little front yard and sniffed around, the car drove off and I saw it clearly. It was no dog, it was a large skinny coyote with straggly hair. It went one house further down and checked out that front yard then came back to mine.
I moved slowly backwards into my neighbour’s drive then behind his car. He came out and shouted “coyote, coyote”. Kilo was totally confused. The coyote looked over right at my neighbour and I. It seemed fearless. It walked casually right towards us. My neighbor is a big guy and he started shouting more and waving his arms. The coyote got closer and I started to get quite scared. Kilo would make a great meal for a coyote. It got half way across the road and then suddenly turned north and trotted away back towards the train tracks where it had come from. I bolted home, put Kilo inside and grabbed my phone and camera.
I drove around looking for the coyote but no sign except some fur he caught on wire around the hole in the fence along the tracks he must use.
The coyote (Canis latrans) is a species of Canine native to North America . It is the size of a medium dog and usually slightly smaller than its close relative, the wolf. Coyotes tend to be wary. They are territorial and can live in a family unit or in loosely knit packs of unrelated individuals or they can be solitary and hunt alone.
Coyotes are mainly carnivorous but will eat whatever food is available such as small mammals, birds, and improperly stored garbage. They help to control rodent and rabbit populations and keep ecosystems balanced. They have adapted very well to urban areas like Toronto because of the food and shelter available.
They are can be active during the day or night, particularly dusk and dawn. They do find dens but do not hibernate and may be seen more often during winter months as they are not hidden by foliage. The months of January and February are mating season for coyotes. The males keep hunting to feed the family once babies are born.
Coyotes can be quite noisy and one can sound like a pack. At least 11 different vocalizations are known in adult coyotes. These sounds are divided into three categories: agonistic and alarm, greeting, and contact. They have big howls that I heard quite a lot at the sanctuary where I was filming.
What should I do if I see a coyote?
I wanted to see if I should have done anything differently when I saw the coyote. I found that The City of Toronto has a formal “Coyote Response Strategy” (available through Animal Services) for dealing with coyote problems. It also gives some background on coyote behaviour, what works and what doesn’t. I have included excerpts below. For more information about Toronto’s Coyote Response Strategy, please visit www.toronto.ca/coyote or contact Toronto Animal Services. Telephone: 416-338-PAWS (7297) Email: email@example.com
The ministry of Ontario website www.ontario.ca also has lots of helpful information.
To stop a coyote from coming into your yard:
- Avoid feeding your pets outdoors.
- Do not let your pet out into your backyard alone, especially at dusk or dawn. Always keep them close and supervise them.
- Store or dispose of garbage, recycling and organics safely. If the coyote is in your yard, there is probably a food source either in your yard or your neighbour’s yard.
- Remove dense brush and weeds to minimize hiding spots or den opportunities.
- Check your fences. Coyotes are great jumpers and hole-makers.
If you live in area where coyotes are prevalent, there are things you can do to keep your dog safe when out walking.
When walking your dog:
- Keep aware and vigilant.
- Only allow your dog off leash in enclosed designated areas and keep your dog in sight and close.
- Walk your dog in areas of high pedestrian traffic such as busy streets, jogging tracks and park trails.
- Walk during daylight hours or in well lit areas if you have to walk at night.
- Avoid walking along abandoned properties or densely forested areas.
If you encounter a coyote while walking your dog:
- Pick the dog up in your arms like I did with Kilo the Pug and back slowly away.
- If not possible, keep your dog close on a short leash, make yourself look big and aggressive and move carefully to an area with more activity. If the coyote seems likely to attack, follow the instructions up above – Do not try to run.
- Coyote vests and collars are also an option and could help protect your dog.
The following may help to deter coyotes apparently:
Flashlights: Bright light has been known to deter or distract coyotes. Plus it helps you see as it gets dark so early now.
Spraying with a Hose or Squirt Gun
Umbrellas: The action and sound of opening/closing and the extra size may deter a coyote.
Whistles or Noise Makers: Loud noises like banging pots, shakers (I have one for interrupting dogs), whistles and other noise makers may scare the coyote directly, and could help alert other pedestrians and pet owners in the area.
A big stick or cane: Waving a big stick may help you look bigger and scare off the coyote or intercept it if it does try to attack. Lately I have seen people walking with ski poles or canes.
If you see a coyote doing the following in Toronto, call 311 (or Animal Services above):
- Approaching dogs or people.
- Exploring a home or building far from a large park or open area.
- Limping or staggering or with paralyzed hind legs.
- Acting confused around non-living objects.
- Biting pets.
- If you find an injured or sick coyote.
Deborah Dobson says
My dog and I once had a very close encounter with a coyote in northern Arizona some years ago. When she suddenly dashed off as we were walking near our house, I didn’t think anything of it because she often chased rabbits. Never catching one, I wasn’t concerned because it was a good aerobic workout for both of them. And yes, my loyal, well-trained dog was off-leash; she always came back whenever I called her and we logged many happy miles together hiking and walking – even along roads, because I taught her “Car”, which meant go to the side of the road now.
The sun was setting in the direction of where Nora had headed so I couldn’t see very well, but when she didn’t return right away, I wondered what was keeping her. Usually her rabbit chases were short but for some reason, this one wasn’t. I stepped closer to the patch of tall grass where she’d disappeared and then saw the grass move. Much to my shock I saw a large coyote and my dog leaping and playing together! But I’d heard stories of a group of hungry coyotes using one as bait to lure an unsuspecting dog near so they could kill it. My heart started racing and everything said I should run over and chase that coyote away immediately!
But then I forced myself to stop and wait. I could not sense anything untoward and Nora was clearly having so much fun. My breathing slowed and I watched as my normally shy dog happily played with the large coyote. It was probably less than two minutes but I will always remember that amazing encounter.
Nora came trotting back after saying goodbye to her new friend and I bent down and gave her a heartfelt hug and kiss. Along with a new nickname: Dances With Coyotes.
This story, entitled “Dances With Coyotes” appeared in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book about dogs, released in the Fall of 2021 called “My Hilarious, Heroic, Human Dog”.