Experts will teach residents how to keep themselves and pets safe from coyotes

After her cat was attacked and her dog was killed by a coyote last fall, Dawna Wightman welcomes the information session that the city is hosting Monday.

City holding meeting to explain how to coexist with the wild canines

Dawna Wightman stands where the bridge once was that joined her backyard and porch. She removed it to keep coyotes out after her dog was killed. (Michael Cole/CBC)

After her cat was attacked and her dog was killed by a coyote last fall, Dawna Wightman welcomes the information session that the city is hosting Monday.

"We see coyotes about once a week, either across the ravine from us or in our backyard," said Wightman, who lives in The Beaches. "Hopefully, the people who can do something to help us will do something."

At the meeting to be held at the East York Civic Centre, experts will teach people how to live alongside the animal with minimal risk — what to do if you see it in a park, how to handle it on your property and how to keep your pets safe.

Toronto Animal Services is hosting the event and has invited experts from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and Coyote Watch Canada to speak.

Although coyotes are a part of the urban landscape and critical to the ecosystem, Toronto Animal Services says problems occur when people start leaving food out.

Dawna Wightman's cat was attacked by a coyote when it stepped out of the house and went into the backyard. (Dawna Wightman)

"[The coyotes] become a little bit less fearful of people when they think that they can get food from either a person's garbage can or because some people are feeding coyotes deliberately," said Mary Lou, who's with Toronto Animal Services.

"They might come a little closer to us than we want them to and that sometimes puts our pets at risk."

Wightman says some neighbours on her small street have left food out and now the animals are accustomed to coming on people's properties.

She says she has called Animal Services and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, but neither agency could do anything because the coyotes didn't attack humans.

"We were told that they would only remove the animal if it threatened or injured a human," said Wightman.

One person attacked in last 20 years, Animal Services says 

​Although it's unfortunate when pets are killed or injured by coyotes, experts say that's natural animal behaviour and coyotes only pose a risk to society if they attack humans, which they rarely do. 

In the past 20 years, Toronto Animal Services says there has only been one attack on a human in the city.

But Wightman says after her dog was killed, she didn't want to take any chances so she created a barrier around her porch and backyard.

A coyote running through a residential area in East Toronto. (Ken Linton)

"There used to a be a ramp that went to the backyard. We took that entire ramp out and nailed the opening shut. Then we put chicken wire all around the deck in the back and we put boards up. Now it would be pretty hard for a coyote to jump up on the deck."

Although it is not illegal to feed wild animals, experts encourage people to report those who do.

"If you're drawing wildlife into an area that's heavily populated, there is an increased chance that there could be a negative encounter," said Lesley Sampson, co-founder of Coyote Watch Canada.

"If people are doing that, the appropriate authorities should be notified and then they'll go in to investigate and talk to the person."

If you do see a coyote, Toronto Animals Services recommends keeping your pet supervised and on a leash. It also says making loud noises will help scare it off. If the animal displays threatening or vicious behaviour, call Animal Services at 416-338-7297.

Monday's meeting is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the council chamber at the East York Civic Centre.