Montreal draws up 'hazing' campaign to make coyotes fear humans again

The city's plan also includes public education and euthanizing aggressive canines.

City's new management plan includes the capture and killing of problem coyotes if necessary

Montreal has released a 40-page plan detailing how it will ensure public safety when it comes to coyotes. (City of Calgary)

Montreal is hiring a team of specialists to roam around the city and scare coyotes in an effort to train the wild animals to fear humans.

Calling it a "hazing campaign," scaring the coyotes away from people with "negative conditioning" techniques is part of the city's new plan to promote cohabitation with urban coyotes —  a plan that includes killing animals only when they are overly aggressive.

"This first management plan gives us the necessary tools to manage and coexist effectively with the coyote on the territory of Montreal," said Émilie Thuillier, mayor of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, in a statement. 

Highly adaptable to urban life, coyotes have been living in Montreal since at least 1973, the city says. But they have been spotted with increasing frequency in recent months, especially in the boroughs of Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension and Ahuntsic-Cartierville. 

In a Monday afternoon news conference held at Montreal's Botanical Gardens, Thuillier said the ultimate goal is to ensure the population is safe and to do that, the city is investing about $150,000 a year into its new urban coyote management plan.

It's the first time a Quebec municipality has launched such an extensive plan. The city needs to do more than just relocate or euthanize urban coyotes, Thuillier said, as these techniques have proved ineffective on their own. 

According to the city, 19 people have been bitten by coyotes since June 2017 — the month Montreal started tracking coyote sightings. All 19 victims sustained superficial wounds.

When coyotes bite, said Thuillier, it's a sign they don't fear humans and associate people with food. These are two factors, she explained, that the city wants to take out of the equation. 

To do that, she said the city will strengthen the enforcement of certain bylaws, including the prohibition against feeding wild animals, keeping dogs leashed and ensuring people properly dispose of garbage and food waste.

See a coyote? Call it in

The city is calling on the public to report coyote sightings as Montreal works to track the animals.​ Thuillier said the city wants to know where the coyotes are and what they are doing when people see them.

The city set up an online reporting form and hotline to report sightings in April. There have been hundreds of reported sightings since.

Ahuntsic-Cartierville Mayor Émilie Thuillier says it is important that people do their part in dealing with urban coyotes through proper garbage management and by reporting sightings. (CBC)

"We are going to continue to use the hotline because it is really important to know how coyotes are acting in Montreal," she said.

However, she added, if somebody fears for their safety because an animal is acting aggressively, they should call 911 and police will intervene. 

In cases where coyotes have bitten people, the city says it will try to identify, capture and euthanize the animals.

Hazing team to scare off the animals

Signs at the entrance of a Montreal park last summer warn of the danger of coyotes in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

In areas where coyotes appear to have lost their fear of humans, a city-hired team of specialists will be deployed.

The specialists will spend several hours a day, Thuillier explained, making noise and scaring the animals. The goal is for coyotes to relearn their natural fear of humans.

The next step, she said, will be to train city employees to do the job of scaring coyotes. Citizens who are interested in taking up the cause may eventually be trained as well, she said.

The city also plans to plans to capture some coyotes and attach GPS collars to them so their movements can be tracked. That study will begin next year.

With files from Steve Rukavina

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