British Columbia

Vancouver Park Board says 4 coyotes euthanized after more than 30 attacks in Stanley Park

More than 30 people have been attacked by coyotes in Stanley Park since December 2020, including a two-year-old child who was taken to hospital after an attack Monday.

B.C. Conservation Officer Service warning people to avoid popular downtown park

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service advises people to visit Stanley Park at their own risk due to aggressive coyotes. (Shutterstock / Mircea Costina)

Conservation officers tracked and euthanized four coyotes in Stanley Park Wednesday night after months of unprovoked attacks on visitors, according to the Vancouver Park Board.

Director of parks, Amit Gandha, told CBC's The Early Edition Thursday morning that officers are continuing to patrol the popular downtown park and that the trail network west of the causeway is closed for people's protection until further notice.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has also advised the public to avoid the park due to the aggressive animals.

 "Use the park at your own risk at this point," Sgt. Simon Gravel said Wednesday. 

The seawall around the perimeter of the park remains open for walking, jogging and cycling.

Gravel said it's hard to predict where coyotes will attack, as they roam throughout Stanley Park, and there is no way to protect the public from these attacks at this time. 

More than 30 people have been attacked by coyotes in the park since December 2020, including a two-year-old child who was taken to hospital after an attack Monday. 

Nadia Xenaxis with the Stanley Park Ecology Society said coyotes first arrived in Vancouver in the 1980s, and between then and late last year, only eight attacks had been recorded. 

"It's an unprecedented, unusual change that's happening with the coyotes right now," she said.

Biologist Colleen Cassady St. Clair said coyote attacks have increased over the past year across North America

While the reasons behind the increased aggressive behaviour are unknown, St. Clair said it could have something to do with the COVID-19 pandemic and the change in patterns of human use in parks. 

"There was much less activity by people everywhere, but it was quickly followed by a lot less activity on roads and a lot more activity in parks," she said.

In Edmonton, where St. Clair works at the University of Alberta, she said human visitation to parks increased four-fold throughout the pandemic, and she suspects Vancouver saw a similar jump. 

Signs are posted near closed trails after a series of coyote attacks in Stanley Park either this month. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"That might increase their tendency to be territorial, especially in a high-quality territory, like one where people are providing food or where there's just a lot of prey," St. Clair said. 

She said colleagues in Calgary have noticed fewer coyotes being hit by cars, meaning the population is growing. 

"Either way, it's a pretty bad situation."

A coyote in Stanley Park photographed by Alex Puttonen on the Ravine Trail near Beaver Lake. Puttonen says he scared the animals away by making noise. (Alex Puttonen)

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is working with descriptions and locations from reports of coyote attacks to "remove" the specific coyotes that have shown hostility toward people in the park. 

Two coyotes were euthanized in January as a result of those investigations.

Gravel said they are working with other agencies that monitor Stanley Park to look for long term solutions that strike a balance between conservation and public safety. He said population control measures, where a large portion of the population would be euthanized, for example, are under review. 

Park Board Commissioner John Irwin said he's concerned about the recent increase in coyote attacks, and wonders if park staff should look into ensuring garbage disposal in the park is animal proof. 

Next Monday is the last park board meeting until the fall.

"We don't run the operations day to day, but we can emphasize that operations should do something over the summer," he said.

"Whatever's happening there isn't working."

The city advises residents not to feed coyotes or any other wildlife, as it can lead to aggressive animal behaviour toward humans.

If you are confronted by a coyote, stay calm and don't run away, because they will instinctively chase you. Instead, stand tall, keep your arms overhead and yell to scare the coyote, teaching them not to go near humans. 

Anyone who comes into contact with an aggressive coyote is asked to call 1-877-952-7277.

With files from Isabelle Raghem, Radio-Canada and The Early Edition