East end coyote sightings prompt warning from vet to keep cats inside, dogs on leashes

A veterinarian north of the Beach area in Toronto's east end is urging pet owners to keep cats inside and dogs on leashes during walks after reports of coyote sightings in a local ravine.

Tito the cat believed to be killed by a coyote near Williamson Park Ravine in July

Tito the cat was killed in July in an area north of the Beach in east-end Toronto. City workers told its owner, Tanya Spasic, that it was killed by coyotes, but vet Kathy Alcock could not confirm that. Alcock is warning pet owners in the area, however, to keep cats inside and dogs on a leash. (Tanya Spasic/CBC)

A veterinarian north of the Beach area in Toronto's east end is urging pet owners to keep cats inside and dogs on leashes during walks after reports of coyote sightings in a local ravine.

Dr. Kathleen Alcock, a vet and owner of Ashbridges Bay Animal Hospital, said this week that one cat was killed in July and three others are missing. 

Alcock said she could not say for certain if coyotes killed the cat, but she sent an email to her clients to encourage them to keep their pets safe in any case.

"We had, unfortunately, a cat show up here deceased. It was a vicious attack. And it was very likely a coyote. I don't have forensic evidence for you, but certainly there have been sightings of coyotes in our neighbourhood," Alcock said.

"The unfortunate thing is, on our front window, we have three posters of cats that are missing."

Alcock said the cats could have gone missing for any number of reasons but she thought it was "prudent" to let people know there have been coyote sightings in the area. 
A coyote in Williamson Park Ravine in a photo taken in December 2016. (Lauren Bonsell/Facebook)

The animals have been spotted in Williamson Park Ravine, north of Gerrard Street East and east of Coxwell Avenue, and in Fairmount Park, which slopes down south from Gerrard Street East. 

"That's enough for me to at least sound the alarm and try to get some people to keep their cats inside," she said.

A large number of cats in her practice are outdoor felines, she said.

Tito suffered catastrophic injuries, she said. The cat was not hit by a car, she added. 

"These were bite wounds. It didn't look like a raccoon attack because there were broken ribs," she said.

Alcock said the problem is urban sprawl, not wildlife in populated areas. She said she doesn't want people to pick up bows and arrows and shovels and attack "these poor creatures." They are part of Toronto's urban landscape, she said. Coyotes have even been reported behind her clinic, she said.

"The coyotes are victims in this," she said. "They are just trying to survive. I don't want them vilified." 
Tito the cat was a long-haired Tabby cat that died in July. (Tanya Spasic)

Tanya Spasic, owner of Tito, the orange long-haired Tabby cat that turned up dead on July 5, said she sees coyotes nearly every night. She now has three cats and a dog.

Tito, a rescue cat, was 11, likely originally from a feral colony, she said.

"He was really an outdoor cat," she said. "I couldn't keep him inside. He was really a cat that I needed to respect his freedom."

Tito never came back home one night and city workers found him the next day. They told Spasic that they believe he was killed by coyotes.

Spasic lives in an apartment building on Gerrard Street East, near Beaton Avenue, and said two coyotes make their way from behind her building to a nearby pathway at night. The area is near Newbold Ravine. 

She said she is concerned about the safety of coyotes themselves, as well as cats and dogs in the neighbourhood, children who attend Bowmore Road Junior and Senior Public School, and teens who hang out in the area.

City should put warning signs, resident says

Spasic said she wants the city to put up signs to let people know about the coyote sightings, rethink its bylaws that encourage co-existence between people and coyotes, and remove the coyotes from the area and take them to a remote location.

"I am concerned. I would like the city to take this seriously and do something," she said.

"It is easy to co-exist with skunks and raccoons. but I don't think it's fair to expect that wildlife, such as coyotes, wolves and bears, can co-exist in urban centres."

She said the city should not wait until a coyote is hit by a car or attacks a person. "I don't believe I am the only person who has reported this and has lost a cat."

Officials from Toronto Animal Services were not available for comment. But according to the city's website, residents need to be careful around coyotes.

"Coyotes have become a natural part of the urban landscape in Toronto and are an important part of the ecosystem as they control rodent and rabbit populations," it reads.

"They thrive in urban areas because of the abundance of food and shelter available to them. However, residents should always exercise caution around coyotes."