A Mississauga woman says her daily dog walk turned into a frightening and dangerous encounter when she and her pet were attacked by a pack of coyotes.
Mary Smith tells CityNews six coyotes charged at her and her dog Cricket on the Etobicoke Creek Trail Tuesday night.
“Oh God Cricket, we’re in trouble. They’re coming,” she remembers thinking as she saw the coyotes dashing down a hill in her direction. “These guys saw us … they didn’t even hesitate, they ran right at us.”
Mary recalls the coyotes bit her pant legs as she tried desperately to fend them off by using a big stick and yelling herself hoarse. She says she even used pepper spray, but the animals did not relent.
Because she couldn’t manage to watch after Cricket while trying to save herself, Mary says she told the dog to run away.
“Three stayed with me and three followed her,” she says. “She looked back at me and I said, ‘No Cricket don’t stop, run’.”
Mary says Cricket managed to lose the pursuing coyotes by running in a zig-zag pattern and at one point jumping into the water nearby. She adds that a passerby also may have helped scare the coyotes away as she called out to the person for help.
“It’s not safe to come down here at all. You can’t walk here at night,” she says.
Mary adds she has heard of at least two other incidents where people were attacked by coyotes and wants the city to do more to keep people safe.
“When you phone and report it to Animal Services they turn around and say, ‘You have to remember they were here first’,” she says. “Well we’re here now, what are you going to do about it?”
Mary says there are signs warning people not to walk in the area when it is dark, but she says that defeats the purpose of the walking trails.
“Well, that’s why [the city] made it. For people to come down here and enjoy it and get away from the city life,” she says.
Instead she says there should be more signs warning people to walk at their own risk and what those risks are. She also suggests collaring and monitoring coyotes or trapping them and removing them from the area.
Jay Smith from Mississauga’s Animal Services says it is always concerning when they hear of incidents involving wildlife in the community and an investigation into this encounter is currently ongoing.
Smith adds that they try to be proactive with their communications and public education to avoid incidents with animals. In Mary’s case, Animal Services is taking her suggestion for better signage.
“When there is a reported increase in sightings in a particular area and incidents such as this … we will immediately partner with our parks department, who is in charge of placement of signs. In particular, in this case we do see an opportunity for additional signage.”
Encounters such as the one Mary had do not seem to be frequent, but Smith explains that at this time of year, coyotes tend to be in their breeding phase which makes them more defensive of their territory — especially if they are denning nearby.
“If dogs happen to be off leash, [the coyotes] might see that as an opportunity to try to take away any threat to their territory,” he says, adding that there is a potential for humans to be harmed, but it is “extremely rare” that Animal Services hears of anything that directly impacts an individual.
On their website, Toronto Animal Services provides the following coyote safety tips:
- Always supervise pets – keep dogs on a leash and keep cats indoors or supervised when outside.
- Avoid ravines and forests, especially in winter and at dawn and dusk.
- Do not feed pets outdoors.
- Do not feed coyotes.