Coyote sightings spark concern among Greenfield residents

A seeming increase in coyote sightings, and bold behaviour by the animals, has many people living in southwest Edmonton worried.

Estimates say up to 2,000 coyotes live within the city limits

While complaints about coyotes are on the rise, park rangers said the population is stable. (File Photo)

Julie Fisher has lived for 35 years in Greenfield, a quiet residential neighbourhood in southwest Edmonton.

But after decades in the neighbourhood, she says she no longer feels safe walking the streets with her grandson because of an unexpected threat — coyotes.

"I just think they're going to attack someday … they're wild," she said.

Fisher said she was recently walking with the two-year-old when they spotted a coyote following them down the street.

Eventually, a passing vehicle honked its horn and scared the animal away. However, Fisher said it's not an isolated incident; she's spotted coyotes in her yard several times and is now worried about letting the young boy play outside.

"They're just getting too brazen. If they're sitting on your lawn and a child happens to go outside, (they're) going attack someday. I really believe it."

Even when they can't be seen, Fisher said she often hears packs of coyotes howling and yipping at night. She would like to see the city re-locate the animals from her neighbourhood.

But that won't work, according to Grant Blaine, who supervisors the city's park rangers. Even if they're able to capture an animal and release it elsewhere, the coyote will just come back.

A better method, he said, is to make sure garbage cans are secured, food isn't left outside and that people keep a close eye on their pets.

"Coyotes are territorial and they will challenge a smaller animal. Sometimes they will try and lure them away from people because coyotes have a natural fear of humans," he said.

'They are a wild animal'

While the coyote population rises and falls over the years, Blaine estimates about 1,500 to 2,000 living in the city limits at any given time. While his department gets several calls of each day of coyote sightings, he said aggressive animals are far less common.

He doesn't believe there are necessarily more of the predators in the city, only that they are being seen more often because it is currently coyote mating season.

"I would say they are not dangerous to people, but you need to respect that they are a wild animal," he said. 

Even if the number of coyotes isn't on the rise, the number of complaints about them certainly are. City Coun. Michael Walters said he has received many calls and emails from people around Greenfield who are worried about coyotes.

He said it's an issue the city needs to take seriously.

"It behooves the city now to work with the communities to up education," he said.

"Where we can provide deterrents, you know, thinning forests (and) making sure that people's garbage is stored properly, we need to definitely look at that stuff."

Walters said he will meet with people living in the neighbourhood to discuss the issue at a community league meeting Tuesday night.