Coyotes that have lost their fear of humans have become a concern in some parts of Nova Scotia where they are getting too close for comfort. Problems often occur in neighborhoods that border wild areas where there is an overlap of territories occupied by people and wildlife.
Last week, a young female hiker was killed by two coyotes in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, heightening awareness of the problem. Both coyotes were shot. One is still on the loose, but an autopsy on the other revealed that it was neither hungry nor diseased when it attacked.
Some blame the problem on people feeding the coyotes, either willingly or by keeping backyard compost piles. I once heard of a woman somewhere in the province who was regularly feeding a couple of skinny, homeless dogs, until her husband noticed her actions and pointed out that she was unassumingly feeding wild coyotes!
Small pets often fall prey to coyotes looking for an easy meal. I’ve always kept my cat indoors after being warned of coyotes in the area years ago. Toddlers playing by themselves outdoors might also be easy prey.
It’s been suggested that the coyotes that attacked the hiker may have been coydogs, the offspring of coyotes and dogs. These hybrids may have less of a natural fear of humans written in their DNA.
As a solution, many folks would like a bounty placed on all coyotes in the province. It’s already legal to kill coyotes that are a nuisance on your property and there is a hunting season for coyotes as well.
One comment at the local newspaper’s website boasted that eight coyotes had been trapped in the woods near Bissett Road a couple of years ago.
The first coyote I ever encountered, a strikingly beautiful animal, was seen while I was driving along that road years ago. I saw one near there this past spring along the salt marsh trail. It wanted nothing to do with me and quickly ran off. More recently, a Cole Harbour man complained that a coyote had approached him on the trail and seemed to have no fear at all. The Natural Resources Department told him the animal was probably just curious.
Like other animal lovers, I don’t want all coyotes to be hunted for the sake of a few bad ones. However, I also don’t like the idea of having to look over my shoulder while I’m out in the woods. A balanced response to the problem is needed.
Coyotes are not native to Nova Scotia. These clever opportunists infiltrated the province just last century, coming up from the US. As wolves were made extinct in the province well over a century ago due to over trapping, coyotes have no natural enemies to keep their population in check. I’d like to see parks introduce wolves as part of the solution to the problem. This would put the balance back into the ecosystem that was removed by man in the first place.
If you do venture out in the woods, it’s recommended that you don’t walk alone and keep children close. The best advice seems to be to walk loudly and carry a big stick.