Montreal holding coyote information sessions in response to rise in sightings

The increase in coyote sightings in Montreal could be caused by more people feeding them, leading them to feel more comfortable near humans, according to outdoor educator Jennifer Marchand.

Residents say coyotes are acting less afraid around them

The City of Montreal has commissioned Guepe, an outdoors education organization, to give information sessions about coyotes. (CBC)

If Montrealers are seeing more coyotes these days, it could be because more Montrealers are feeding them, according to outdoor educator Jennifer Marchand. 

"[Coyotes] understand that humans are not to be feared, that they can be fed by them, so they change their habits," Marchand said Sunday in Ahuntsic-Cartierville's Basile Routhier Park, as she was giving an information session on the animals' presence in the city.

There has been a spate of coyote sightings in the past year in Montreal, Marchand said.

Coyotes in Montreal are nothing new — they're known to cross the des Prairies River from Laval along the train tracks and follow the rails into different parks at night, looking for food — but several residents who saw them over the summer noted the animals acted overly familiar.

No longer fearing humans as much

Some of the coyotes even went as far as following the residents, looking to be fed.

"We don't know why this is happening, really, this year," Marchand said. "The City of Montreal and [Quebec's Wildlife] Ministry are searching for the answer, but we only have hypotheses."

Outdoor educator Jennifer Marchand says coyotes are rarely aggressive towards humans. (CBC)

Development along the island's north shore may also be pushing coyotes out of the shadows and into the residents' sight lines, Marchand said. 

The city has commissioned the organization Marchand works for, Guepe, to give information sessions like Sunday's in a number of Montreal parks so that residents can know what to do when they see one. 

Usually, a coyote will run away when someone approaches. But if they've been fed by humans before, that person may no longer seem like a threat. 

'Be the predator you're supposed to be'

If a coyote draws near, Marchand urged people to "be the predator that you're supposed to be."

"You have to be big, you have to be loud and you have to [scare] them," she said.

Several Montrealers have caught sight of unafraid coyotes, looking to be fed. (Submitted/Radio-Canada)

Making noise and even throwing something near a coyote (not at it) can help, too. People with small dogs or cats should pick them up and carry them under their arms, Marchand said, as small pets are the size of coyotes' prey.

But coyotes rarely show aggression towards humans. They're nothing to be afraid of, said Marchand, although their presence can be startling because city residents aren't used to it.

The table Marchand was at — lined with the skins of a coyote, fox and wolf — caught the attention of Émile Reid, who stopped by with his dad and siblings.

Reid told Marchand he'd seen a coyote on a street corner just the other day. 

"I knew there were coyotes, but I didn't know there was an invasion in Ahuntsic," he said. 

Émile Reid says he saw a coyote clutching a squirrel in its mouth the other day in Ahuntsic-Cartierville. (CBC)

Marchand laughed, but was quick to correct him, noting that while people have been spotting the animals more frequently, there was no invasion.

Émile nodded and remarked that — if there were no coyotes — "there would be an invasion of squirrels," which appeared to please Marchand.

Urban coyotes killed, trapped

Earlier, she'd told CBC News coyotes play an important role in the food chain by regulating the populations of their prey, which include mice, groundhogs, squirrels and rats.

There have been several coyote sightings along Montreal's north shore, including in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, where the animals are known to cross into from Laval using the train tracks. (CBC)

Marchand said that biologists are still studying the best ways to deal with coyotes in urban areas. 

Over the summer, two coyotes were killed by police and 10 were trapped and relocated areas with more wildlife and little urban development in the Montérégie region.

Three of those 10 had to be euthanized because they were in such bad shape.

Marchand said police have a list of procedures to follow before they shoot an animal, so if the coyotes were shot, it must have been as a last recourse. 

For now, Marchand said, relocating coyotes that get too close to humans is the best solution.

with files from Navneet Pall and Radio-Canada