Bold and brazen: coyotes targetting pets in East Van
The Stanley Park Ecology Society says the predator has become habituated to humans
Mark Fenster was relaxing in his backyard with his wife on Tuesday evening when he heard a car honking loudly and repeatedly.
He went to his front yard to see what was causing the commotion, and to his horror, he saw his beloved nine-pound Maltese-Bichon cross, Opi, being chased down the street by a coyote.
Fenster says what happened next was really frightening.
"I saw the coyote with the dog in its jaws," he recounted. "I just kept running towards it and yelled at the top of my lungs and it scared the coyote off."
With Opi safely nestled in his wife's arms, Fenster kept chasing the coyote until it disappeared into some bushes.
"It was a fast guy," he said. "I'm not sure if it hid or just kept running."
The Fensters live near Trout Lake — an area that has seen an increase in sightings according to Greg Hart of the Stanley Park Ecology Society, which records coyote sightings in the city.
"Coyotes are being seen more and they're becoming more habituated," he said. "They are typically shy and afraid of people [but] they lose that shyness and become more habituated if they get a food source and food reward."
Hart added that "it seems like someone, intentionally or unintentionally, is feeding them".
Hart says this is compounded by the fact that it is pupping season and coyotes are desperate to get food for their young.
Coyotes primarily eat small rodents like rats, mice and squirrels, but Hart says that some coyotes are becoming bolder — preying on cats and smaller dogs like Opi.
"We do encourage dog owners to keep their dogs on a leash and cat owners to keep their cats indoors as much as possible, especially at night" he said.
Hart also has general tips for anyone who interacts with a coyote:
- Never feed a coyote: they are typically shy and afraid of people and they become less afraid if they are given a food reward.
- Keep yards clear with garbage and compost secured: remove things from your yard that will attract the rodents that coyotes typically prey on.
- When you see a coyote, scare it away: Hart says this will help restore the fear that coyotes naturally have of humans.
As for Opi, Fenster says the little pup is physically fine although quite shaken.
"He was really lucky," he said. "Had we not been there, or had we been there 30 seconds later, I don't think we would have had the same outcome."