Ottawa

Not-so-wily coyotes spotted in Arboretum

Visitors to Ottawa's Arboretum are now being warned to be on the lookout for the normally elusive canines.

New warning sign urges dog walkers to keep their pets leashed

Melina Jefferson walks the Arboretum paths on her lunch hour. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada put up several signs around the Central Experimental Farm warning of the presence of coyotes. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC )

Visitors to Ottawa's Arboretum are now being warned to be on the lookout for coyotes.

A new sign posted beside a pathway behind HMCS Carleton, between Dow's Lake and the Arboretum, reads: "Caution: Coyotes are a natural part of our ecosystem and usually avoid humans. Encounters are very rare. To avoid problems, please keep pets on a leash. Be cautious as coyotes can look like dogs. Do not approach or feed them."

There have been several confirmed sightings of the normally elusive canines on the nearby Central Experimental Farm.

CBC headed out to ask joggers, dog walkers and other visitors if they've seen coyotes, wily or otherwise, in the area.

'Yeah, they're here'

Blair Tucker walks his dog Buddy, a golden retriever-Bernese cross, in the Arboretum, and recently saw two coyotes. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Blair Tucker said he saw two coyotes recently. "Yeah, they're here," he said.

But Tucker's not worried about his dog, Buddy, a golden retriever-Bernese cross. "They're gonna run from us. Coyotes like fast food. They grab and go. There was a young one and an older one, and they saw us and they just ran."

Samantha Fonberg and her cocker spaniel-poodle-shih tzu mix, Rupert. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Samantha Fonberg hasn't seen coyotes at the Arboretum, but she wonders whether her much smaller dog, Rupert, a  cocker spaniel-poodle-shih tzu mix, might be vulnerable to the opportunistic predators.

"I am a little worried, now that we're having this conversation. What I've heard is that they're getting more comfortable around people," Fonberg said.

The Arboretum is home to small prey such as this busy black squirrel. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Zach Langer, 14, often walks his white German shepherd, Casper, in the park. Casper likes to run in the wide-open spaces, and "to chase butterflies, squirrels and laser pointers."

Langer doesn't think there are coyotes in the park, but if there were? "[Casper would] probably run away."

David Arnold and his son, Sebastian, 4, aren't worried about the possibility of coyotes. They recently moved to Ottawa from B.C. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

David Arnold was out walking with his son, Sebastian, 4. "It doesn't faze me. We come from B.C.," Arnold said. 

Melina Jefferson has been walking around the Arboretum for years and has never seen a coyote. But the sign didn't surprise her.

"Maybe there was [a coyote] seen and someone made a complaint so they needed to post a sign. That kind of sounds classic."

Denis Dupont has been walking the Arboretum paths almost daily since 2012, and just noticed the sign.

"Yeah, and I've never spotted a coyote. Lots of dogs, but never coyotes. Maybe people have seen dogs that aren't on leash thinking they were coyotes," he offered.

Squirrel tracks in the newly fallen snow at the nut-and-berry-rich Arboretum. Squirrels are prime coyote prey. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Confirms suspicions 

The reports of coyote sightings come as no surprise to Mark Hooper, whose black lab-mix, Arya, loves to chase squirrels in the Arboretum.

"I was wondering why my dog got scared in the bush. A couple of days back, we were walking along and she got really scared and jolted back toward me. Something that's not a dog was in there. So it's confirming some suspicions I've had, actually, that there's something else in there."

Mark Hooper and his black lab mix, Arya. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada put up eight signs at "frequently-visited Central Experimental Farm locations" to inform people about the presence of coyotes. A statement said there have been no reported incidents, but staff are aware of sightings, and told CBC in a statement the department is taking a page from the National Capital Commission's book.

The NCC put up signs after a coyote attacked a dog near McCarthy Park in 2018.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says it's monitoring the situation "to ensure public safety." It's warning people the animals can be aggressive, and are not to be approached or fed.

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