An 8 a.m. walk by the train tracks near Queen Street West and Gladstone Avenue gave one Toronto woman a view she’s never seen before — a family of coyotes.
Samantha Pegg captured the sighting on her phone. The footage shows two adults and their three pups making their way across the tracks in Liberty Village on Wednesday.
“All of a sudden these birds started going crazy and then I started hearing puppy sounds, so I thought a puppy had gotten stuck by the tracks and was crying out,” Pegg said.
“I went over and I just saw the family crossing the train tracks.”
Pegg was out for a walk with her dog Lola along the trail, which is popular with residents living across the street from the tracks. Though she wasn’t fearful of the animals, some of her neighbours expressed concern over the wild animals spotted in the city.
Zoe Medicoff, an area resident, said she, along with many residents living nearby, often times use the trail right by the tracks to walk their dogs.
Medicoff’s 13-year-old daschund Marzipen is sometimes without a leash — something she’s now rethinking following the coyote sightings.
“That’s a terrible combination. Where are they coming from and why are they here?,” said Medicoff.
“This is a train track not a place for coyotes.”
The City of Toronto, keeps track of all the coyote sightings that have been reported, and said it isn’t rare for coyotes to move across train tracks and ravines.
Toronto Animal Services said that so far this year there have been 393 sightings reported to 311. There have also been seven reported cases of coyote attacks, four of which involved a coyote biting another animal. In comparison, Animal Services said there are over 1,200 reports of dogs biting people.
“Coyotes are actually found all over the city, they thrive in an urban area because of the abundance of food and shelter that’s available to them,” Fiona Venedam with Toronto Animal Services explained.
Though Venedam said there’s a concern for pet safety, people shouldn’t be afraid of coyotes.
“We can live in harmony with them but we have to learn that they are wild animals and as such we shouldn’t prey on their territory,” Venedam said.
“So don’t antagonize them, don’t feed them, and if someone finds a den obviously don’t go there on a regular basis.”
The following may help to deter coyotes:
- Flashlights: Bright light has been known to deter coyotes.
- Umbrellas: The action and sound of opening/closing will deter a coyote.
- Whistles: May not scare coyote directly but will alert other pedestrians in the area.
- Be big and loud: Jump up and down, wave your arms, yell “Go away coyote!”
*Source: Toronto Animal Services
The City of Toronto currently has a bylaw in place that prohibits feeding wildlife, including coyotes. But still, there are people who break this rule, which can create problems.
“That behaviour starts to change the mindset of the coyote, where the coyote starts to think people are okay and they’re not scary after all,” Natalie Karvonen, executive director of the Widlife Centre, said.
“Those coyotes are more of a problem, not that they’re going to injure or kill people but they are going to be much bolder about coming into your yard and getting a food reward.”
The city, along with the Toronto Wild Life Centre have been educating the public about coyotes and the misconceptions that people have. The animals, 30 pounds on average, can adapt to a big city like Toronto.
“For the most part, coyotes are terrified of people and just want to stay away from you,” said Karvonen. “If there are any concerns at all, just act all big and scary, wave your arms, make noise and the coyote will typically run away. The only time that might be different is if you have a little pet with you and the coyote might be interested in that pet for a variety of reasons.”
Keeping your pets safe
- Keep dogs on a leash.
- Keep cats indoors or supervised when outside.
- If coyotes are in your area, do not let your pet out into your backyard alone.
*Source: Toronto Animal Services
Experts say if you come upon a coyote while walking your dog, simply pick your pet up and keep them close. Karvonen encourages residents to familiarize themselves with their neighbourhood and if its frequented by coyotes. If that’s the case, people who have outdoor cats should supervise them when they’re out of the house.
“Cats are not normal animals to be outdoors, wandering unsupervised even though it’s a very common thing for people to do,” Karvonen said.
“Cats, if they’re let outdoors, will prey upon little wild animals like baby rabbits and birds, and they themselves can be preyed upon as well. They essentially become part of the eco-system.”
Residents are encouraged to call 311 to report any coyote sightings.