bc-090116-coyote1

This coyote was photographed in Vancouver's Shaughnessy neighbourhood last December. ((Roger Noujeim))

Conservation officers are warning British Columbians of the dangers of feeding wildlife following an attack on a Lower Mainland toddler by a coyote that had lost its fear of humans.

The girl, 2, suffered bites to the head and ear and minor scratches to her back during Monday's attack at a playground in a Port Coquitlam school yard, before her parents were able to scare the animal away.  

Provincial conservation officer Terry Myroniuk said agents later tracked and killed the animal. The contents of its stomach — chicken and mashed potatoes — confirmed it had been getting fed.

"What typically will happen is the animals will quite often lose their fear of humans and… approach humans in seeking out food — and this can sometimes result in unfortunate incidents," Myroniuk said.

Feeding wild animals is an offence under the provincial Wildlife Act, Myroniuk pointed out, and the law is there for a reason.

"People who feed wildlife intend to help, but the practice instead puts the animals and the public in danger," Myroniuk said.

"It's not unusual for us to have coyotes existing in the Lower Mainland. But the behaviour that was exhibited by this animal — again, the lack of fear of humans, the lack of fear in actually approaching humans — is an indication that it had certainly been fed."