Expect St. John's coyote sightings: biologist
Coyote sightings will probably become more common in urban and suburban Newfoundland communities, according to a provincial wildlife official reacting to a report that a coyote was seen in the centre of St. John's in mid-April.
"It's becoming more, and more common and it probably will get more common as coyote numbers increase," said Mike McGrath, a senior biologist with the provincial wildlife division.
McGrath spoke with CBC News after a man living on Wishingwell Road, in St. John's, said he saw a coyote near his house over the weekend.
"I looked up the road and I saw him on the lawn. I went in my house to get my camera and when I came back out, it was gone," said Bill Butt.
"I knew it was a coyote because I've seen them before in British Columbia. It wasn't a dog."
McGrath has not confirmed that what Butt saw was a coyote, although he said it is possible that it was.
"We get the occasional sighting [of coyotes] right throughout the city, including the Goulds, and we had an unconfirmed sighting on Blackmarsh Road the week before last," he said.
Coyotes came to Newfoundland in 1980s
Coyotes are found throughout North America. They aren't native to Newfoundland but have been spreading east since they first were sighted on the island in the mid-1980s.
The Avalon Peninsula is the last part of the island the animals have reached.
McGrath said coyotes feed primarily on snowshoe hares and moose carrion. He believes growth of the province's coyote population has been fuelled by the island's growing hare population.
"We're pretty confident that the coyote numbers are responding to that numerically," he said. "But I think the numbers of coyotes are starting to peak now."
McGrath said coyote numbers in Labrador are low and are not expected to grow because of the presence of wolves there.
Last year a woman was killed by coyotes in a national park in Cape Breton, N.S.
Nonetheless, McGrath said that although coyotes have been known to kill pets, people in Newfoundland probably aren't likely to be harmed by them.
"The animals [in the Nova Scotia case] were pretty accustomed to people and they were used to getting food from people," said McGrath.
"The animals that lose their fear of people are the animals that we have to be vigilant about. If we keep these animals wild, I don't think we will ever have problems with coyotes in Newfoundland," he said.