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'I don't feel safe in my neighbourhood,' says man suing Collingwood over coyotes

A Collingwood, Ont., man is suing the town and police, claiming they haven't protected residents or their pets against aggressive coyotes roaming his neighbourhood.

Residents say they're scared to walk outside alone

Jeff Brown says he has baseball bats outside his waterfront home as protection against coyotes. He's filed a lawsuit against the Town of Collingwood and the Collingwood Police Services Board. (Submitted by Jeff Brown)

People in Collingwood say coyotes have killed dogs and cats and lashed out at people, and now one longtime resident is calling on the courts to intervene after growing tired of asking the town and local police to help.

Jeff Brown has filed a lawsuit claiming $680,000 in damages against the Town of Collingwood and the Collingwood Police Services Board.

"Honestly, [I] just ran out of options," Brown said in a phone interview. "The town is in for a fight."

Collingwood, a picturesque waterfront Ontario town on Georgian Bay near the Blue Mountain ski resort, is one of a number of communities across Canada where neighbours are frustrated and scared, struggling to deal with aggressive coyotes, though a lawsuit is unusual.

'I don't feel safe in my neighbourhood'

Brown, who's lived in the area for decades, said there had been some coyotes around in the past, but in the last couple years, the problem has exploded in east Collingwood.

"I don't feel safe in my neighbourhood," said Brown, the grandfather of a two-month-old boy. 

"I could not live with myself if my grandson was crawling around on my property and was attacked by three coyotes that frequent this area."

The Town of Collingwood did not respond to CBC News specifically about the lawsuit, but did provide a statement about coyotes in the town.

No 'threat to public safety,' town says

"We do not believe that there is any threat to public safety," the statement by communications officer Adam Ferguson reads. "However, residents and visitors in the region should always be vigilant of their surroundings."

The Town received reports about 95 coyote sightings or attacks in 2018, with two confirmed attacks on pets, and five others suspected. Two of the attacks on pets ended in fatalities. In 2019, the town says there have been three sightings and two suspected attacks on pets.

Brown is concerned about coyotes like this one, which was photographed in south Ottawa in 2009. (Submitted by Greg Carter)

The Town of Collingwood advocates "co-existence" with coyotes, telling residents not to leave out items that attract the animals, such as food. 

The statement also notes the town will host a coyote awareness session next week, exploring topics such as reducing human-coyote interaction.

But Brown's lawsuit claims the town and police have an obligation to intervene in this issue, and that by permitting coyotes to roam in the area, they're allowing cruelty to animals, given reported deaths and injuries to local pets.

He's rallied some in the community together, speaking at council meetings and starting a Facebook group, Coyote Concerns Collingwood.

Elsa Mika, 12, with the family puppy Bernie. Her father Jakub Mika says because of aggressive coyotes in the neighbourhood, she's now too scared to walk outside alone. (Submitted by Jakub Mika)

Jakub Mika joined the group and posted a photo of his daughter Elsa, 12, with the family puppy, saying the two can no longer go for a walk on their own due to safety concerns.

In a phone interview, Mika said one of their cats disappeared last year and they suspect it was eaten by a coyote.

Every night, he said, the family can hear coyotes howling, with his daughter worried about waiting for the school bus in the morning or jumping on the family's backyard trampoline.

"She's 12 years old and that's kind of frustrating to be scared around your house."

Mika said actions suggested by the town, such as making a loud noise if confronted by a coyote or throwing something at them, don't work.

"I would like to get this local aggressive pack either transferred or culled," he said.

"I feel like it's only a matter of time before some elderly or young person really gets injured or worse."

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