What to do if you meet a coyote? Wave a big stick and don't run away
Coyotes have been seen in parts of P.E.I's National Park, and experts have some safety tips to share
Coyotes have been seen in parts of P.E.I's National Park, and experts have some safety tips to share in case Islanders or visitors encounter one or more of the animals when they're out for a stroll.
Park officials recently posted signs at Skmaqn–Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst letting people know there are coyotes in the area. P.E.I. has a high coyote population of about 2,000, according to the provincial government, and they can be found across the province.
"It's not entirely uncommon to see coyotes on the trails, the Confederation Trail in particular," said Garry Gregory, a wildlife biologist with the province's Department of Environment. Like people, coyotes like to travel along the trails and hunt for abundant small prey along the trail's edges.
He suggested carrying a walking stick and keeping dogs leashed.
Usually coyotes will flee when they see a human, Gregory said, and in that case trail users can continue without concern.
'Make yourself imposing'
If people see a coyote approaching them on the trail, Gregory said that's a different scenario.
In that case, he advises people stand their ground, wave their walking stick, shout and clap their hands.
"Try to make yourself imposing and loud," he said. "In the vast majority of cases, that will cause the coyote to alter its course probably go into the adjacent field or woods."
Gregory said it's not a good idea to run away, although that might be the natural instinct.
"Whether or not the coyote is actually bold or aggressive, it can just trigger an instinct to chase," he said.
If the coyote does not retreat, Gregory advised backing away while continuing to face it until it is out of sight, then returning to your vehicle.
Aggressive coyotes 'very, very rare'
A coyote may behave differently if a person is walking a dog. Gregory said a coyote might see a smaller dog as prey and attack, while it might see a larger dog as a threat to its territory and try to chase them off.
"A coyote, after all, is a dog — so dog-to-dog type interactions can be of various sorts and can cause coyotes to do funny things," Gregory said.
If dogs are close to a coyote's den, especially during breeding season which is happening now, they are more likely to stand their ground to protect the den, but Gregory said that is "very, very rare."
There has never been any coyote-to-human conflict on P.E.I. and no person has ever been injured in an encounter with a coyote on P.E.I. to Gregory's knowledge.
He said the presence of coyotes should not be a deterrent to anyone who wants to use the Island's many trails.
The province does get a handful of calls every year about coyotes interfering with livestock such as sheep, calves or chickens. In those cases, Gregory said the province works with local hunters and trappers to eliminate the problem animal.