Edmonton park rangers investigate meat left out for coyotes

Edmonton park rangers are investigating after discovering someone is leaving meat out for coyotes in MacKenzie Ravine.

'We'll use whatever authority we have to enforce to try and solve this,' park ranger says

Someone is feeding coyotes in Edmonton's MacKenzie Ravine. (Associated Press)

It might take a stakeout to figure out who's leaving steak out for Edmonton's coyotes, but park rangers say it's a problem they want to stop.

"It's an ongoing investigation," said Sgt. Greg Komarniski of the city's park ranger unit in an interview with CBC News on Thursday.

"We have found indications that there's been meat dropped in areas of MacKenzie Ravine more than once so we're looking into that. What happens with that is it obviously attracts wildlife."

Rangers aren't the only ones coming across the meat.

"We've had complaints come in through 311, people finding sources of food in the forms of meat being left on the snow," said Komarniski.

One post being shared on Edmonton community Facebook pages is warning dog owners about the situation and encourages them to call a park ranger if they have any information about it.

This warning to dog owners is being shared on Edmonton community Facebook pages. (Facebook)

'I thought that was kind of crazy'

Realtor and father Bill Bowers lives in Laurier Heights and tells CBC News that it's an ongoing problem.

"I know there's a lady who puts steaks and things out, bird seed, and her house will always have animals out there and animal droppings." said Bowers.

"I thought that was kind of crazy, actually. I mean there's so many kids in our neighbourhood."

Bowers was taking his kids sledding a couple of weeks ago when he came across what he described as a large coyote.

"He looked up at us and he wasn't scared of the van or anything. We weren't right on top of him but he saw us, we saw him, and he continued with business as usual," said Bowers.

He hopes authorities can stop people from feeding wildlife but believes they might be limited in what they can do.

'She has to be caught in the act' 

"She has to be caught in the act or the animals have to be caught in the act of being fed and that hasn't happened," said Bowers. "There have been enough complaints lodged but nothing that has been obviously put into action."

For now, the readily available meat means the coyotes don't have to be particularly wily to get a meal, and that will likely have them coming back for more.

Edmonton's coyote population is doing well, authorities say. (Dennis McLaren)

Komarniski doesn't know why someone would leave the food out for wildlife but doesn't suspect it's been poisoned.

"There's been no reports of any injured or sick wildlife or domestic pets so that's all I can say is that that has not obviously happened," he said.

 Still, park rangers want to put a stop to the activity.

'Illegal to be leaving anything on park land'

"Right now we're dealing with what we think is someone leaving meat behind and in that case it is illegal to be leaving anything on park land. You can nail it right down to even just littering but what you're also doing is disturbing wildlife," said Komarniski.

"We'll use whatever authority we have to enforce to try and solve this."

According to Komarniski, it's not unusual to spot a coyote, especially with the huge river valley running through the city.

"We have on average every year about 2,000 coyotes within the city limits," he said. "It all depends on the rabbit population, the mice population, feral cats. They've done quite well in [the] last couple of years so it's at a bit of a high right now."

'Make it feel uncomfortable'

The parks department is trying to educate people on what to do if they encounter a coyote.

"Make it feel uncomfortable by shouting, waving your arms, throw things at it if you want. [You] don't want to injure it but just want to scare it away," said Komarniski. "It just conditions them to be wary of humans." 

Bowers said residents need to learn to live with the coyotes but not literally.

"We're living in the coyote's domain with the river valley surrounding us and we have to find ways to coexist with these animals but not invite them to our supper table."

Anyone who spots meat that appears to be left out for wildlife is asked to call 311.

Anyone who sees a coyote is encouraged to report the sighting to the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project. It's a long-term study by University of Alberta conservation behaviourist Colleen Cassady St. Clair, who works with other researchers and the city to reveal the secret lives of Edmonton's urban coyotes.

Cassady St.Clair also advises people not to feed coyotes as the animals can become aggressive and will have to be removed. People might think they're helping the animals by feeding them but they're actually signing their death warrant, she told CBC News.