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LaSalle on 'high alert' after coyote attacks kill, injure family pets

Residents of the Town of LaSalle will be able to express their concerns about wild coyotes at a community open house later this fall. 

A report tabled at LaSalle council suggested the municipality should employ a 'status quo approach'

Wild coyotes have attacked a number of dogs in LaSalle. (Getty Images)

Residents of LaSalle, Ont. are on high alert after reports of coyotes attacking and even killing family pets in town.

According to residents, coyote sightings used to be few and far between, but the occurrences are becoming more common. 

LaSalle resident Nolan Labute's dog had a close scare — his dog got bit by a coyote and luckily survived. 

"You have to always be aware," said Labute, who worries about coyotes even though he's just 16 years old. Labute said the second you're not watching your dog, they can get attacked. He hears coyotes howl at night in the wooded area behind his house.

Labute's dog is okay now, but now he watches his pets when they're out in the backyard. 

"There are some laws that prevent you from doing anything about the coyotes," said Labute. "Something should change."

In early June, one LaSalle resident's dog died after a coyote attack. According to a report to council Tuesday, the area's "unique blend" of urban and wooded areas is what leads to the conflicts. Both sides — those looking to get rid of the coyotes and those looking to save wildlife — have approached council with concerns. 

Colleen Nadon carries a bamboo stick with her when she walks her dog — just in case she comes across a coyote. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Some LaSalle residents, like Colleen Nadon, walk their dogs on the trails almost every day. 

"After that little dog got killed, a day or two later, I was holding my dog and I looked up and there was a big coyote in a clearing," said Nadon, who said she couldn't believe what she was seeing. 

"I could see his face looking at us," said Nadon, adding she saw another coyote just a few weeks later. Nadon used to let her dog roam free on the trails — now her pup stays on a leash and Nadon even carries a bamboo stick with her to fight off any potential coyotes. 

Options are limited

Members of the LaSalle Police Service and town councillor Jeff Renaud met with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNR) to find out what residents can and cannot do when it comes to the coyotes.

As a municipality, there's little that can be done.

According to the report, LaSalle should maintain a "status quo approach" to dealing with wild coyotes.

Preventing coyote encounters

  • Keep pet food indoors.
  • Use secure garbage containers with locking lids.
  • Pick ripe fruit from trees and remove fallen fruit from the ground.
  • Clear away bushes and dense weeds near your home.
  • Use motion sensor lights outdoors.
  • Close off spaces under porches and decks.
  • Keep dogs indoors at night.
  • Spay/neuter your dog: Coyotes are attracted to and can mate with domestic dogs.

Avoiding coyote conflicts

  • Never feed coyotes.
  • Do not approach.
  • Do not let pets chase coyotes.
  • Do not turn your back or run: Stand tall, wave your arms and make a lot of noise.
  • Carry a flashlight at night.

Source: Living with Wildlife, Ontario.ca

According to the report, "while the municipality is entitled to change, amend bylaws or introduce new bylaws, it is recommended that a status quo approach is maintained as changes to bylaws (fencing heights and limits, hunting, discharge of fire arms) may address this current issue but cause more significant issues in other areas."

Developing a co-existence program, researching other towns

Renaud said the town will continue to look into their options. A focus group was established at Tuesday's meeting to check on what other towns have done to deal with coyotes or other wildlife.

"There's all kinds of things that are out there that we would have to do the research and find out [if they have] been effective for these people or for these towns," said Renaud.

Lesley Sampson with Coyote Watch Canada said her organization worked with the City of Niagara Falls to develop a co-existence strategy. The plan involved tracking coyotes to learn their habits and whereabouts. 

"We located three different feeding areas, residents who were putting food out," said Sampson. "That began the cultivation of the program, but we were able to work with those individual residents and a feeding wildlife bylaw was established."

Coyote Watch Canada has also provided education programs in Collingwood, Ont., Toronto, and Mississauga, Ont. 

"We have a hand in how wildlife behaves," said Sampson. "If food provisions are there, or bylaws aren't being enforced, you'll have a repeat of the situation."

Sampson said they don't necessarily want to see coyotes killed.

"Co-existence isn't about being warm and hugging, it's about our role in preventing things from happening to our pets," said Sampson. 

The CBC's Jason Viau spoke to LaSalle residents about their concerns. Tap on the player to hear what they have to say. 

A series of attacks involving wild coyotes and dogs has many LaSalle residents worried for their safety. 0:59

Municipalities do have the option of trapping wild animals, but Renaud said LaSalle wasn't prepared to make a decision about coyote trapping because there were too many unanswered questions about appropriate wildlife management. 

The report also warned against hiring a licensed trapper, "as this would ultimately result in the destruction of the coyotes, may result in the unbalancing of the ecosystem and, given the environment, may not effectively address the issues as coyotes are likely to live in the area."

According to Sampson, private homeowners can hire their own trappers.

Residents of the Town of LaSalle will be able to express concerns about wild coyotes at a community open house later this fall. 

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