Got coyotes? Researchers want to photograph them on residential properties

Researchers at the University of B.C. and the Stanley Park Ecology Society are on the prowl for urban coyotes and have launched a program that aims to capture more of the animals on camera.

Goal of study is to find out where most of Vancouver's 200 coyotes roam and devise humane deterrents

This image was captured by a motion-sensor camera in Vancouver. Researchers hope to learn more about coyote behaviour in urban landscapes by installing more cameras in residential backyards. (UBC/Stanley Park Ecology Society)

Researchers at the University of B.C. and the Stanley Park Ecology Society are on the prowl for urban coyotes and have launched a program that aims to capture more of the animals on camera. 

"They are rather elusive," said Dr. Kristen Walker, a UBC animal welfare biologist. "They're used to living in an environment such as this where they are good at hiding and making their presence not really known."

Dr. Kristen Walker studies animal welfare at UBC's Faculty of Land of Food Systems. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Walker hopes to find residents who routinely see the animals on their properties so that cameras can be installed to accurately track their coming and goings.

Researchers want to scientifically test deterrents — such as motion-sensor sprinklers — that could be used in urban settings to reduce conflicts between the animals and humans.

Deterrent devices

"Loud noises and loud lights, they're used to seeing that in an urban environment," said Walker. "So we need to be able to find a device that has a combination of that, that is effective in deterring animals off of people's property if there is a perceived conflict."

There are about 200 coyotes living in Vancouver and thousands more across Metro Vancouver, according to the Stanley Park Ecology Society. For the most part, people rarely see the animals, which are most active at night as they hunt for rodents, their main food source.

A biologist with the Stanley Park Ecology Society says coyotes in cities thrive because there are so many rodents to eat. (Michael Schmidt/Stanley Park Ecology Society)

However, every so often, the animals get too comfortable around humans and problems arise. 

In May, a three-year-old child was bitten on the head by a coyote in Burnaby. Conservation officers said the animal had become accustomed to people feeding it.

Ayden Ramm had several gashes on his head after the coyote attack in May. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

Researchers like Walker and the Stanley Park Ecology Society's Madeline Chan say it's best for coyotes to maintain a healthy fear of humans.

"They have a natural fear of people and we want to encourage that," said Chan. The society encourages people who do come across coyotes to make loud noises.

Burnaby resident John Macnaughton took these photos around the time Ayden Ramm was attacked in the Burnaby neighbourhood in May 2018. He said coyote sightings are common in the area. (John Macnaughton)

The society also wants sightings to be reported through the society's website to add to its sightings map.

Meanwhile, researchers are hopeful about cameras installed in backyards like Tom Lee's.

Burnaby resident Tom Lee says he often sees wildlife in his backyard. He now has cameras installed to capture images of them as part of the UBC/Stanley Park Ecology Society study. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Lee lives on a lush, sprawling property in Burnaby and often sees wildlife.

"About a week ago I was cutting the grass and a deer came out here and it walked all the way around with me around the whole yard," he said.

'Get along with them'

He's interested to know what the cameras will turn up and wants to do his part to help animals like coyotes thrive in urban landscapes.

"I just love the animals and we have to get along with them," he said.

Two coyotes photographed by a motion-sensor camera in Vancouver. The animals are most active at night and help control rodent populations in cities. (UBC/Stanley Park Ecology Society)

Other residents who see the animals are asked to contact the Stanley Park Ecology Society about getting cameras on their properties.