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HomeBusinessAnalysis: After coexisting with coyotes for years, Vancouver politicians have blood on their hands

Analysis: After coexisting with coyotes for years, Vancouver politicians have blood on their hands

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Bob Mackin

City of Vancouver is poised to mark the 20th anniversary of a program to coexist with coyotes in the urban environment by mass-killing coyotes in the urban environment.

Stanley Park coyote (Park Board)

Premier John Horgan’s NDP government dispatched provincial hunters to Stanley Park, where fences were erected before Malkin Bowl hosted its first week of concerts since 2019.

One of those concerts is a private gig starring Billy Idol and other acts for friends and clients of real estate tycoon Ryan Beedie.

Authorities say more than 45 reports have been filed this year of coyotes biting or scratching children and adults. Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says it’s Park Board’s jurisdiction.

Two decades ago, Vancouver city council was deeply involved in finding a solution. 

A Sept. 13, 2001 report to city council blamed intentional and unintentional feeding by humans for attracting aggressive coyotes. It said law enforcement and public education would solve the problem.

The city’s health bylaw and the parks control bylaw include provisions to prohibit feeding of coyotes and other wildlife, the report said. Permits and licences, health board staff and police were empowered to issue violation tickets.

“Provided that enforcement personnel can identify violators and gather evidence to establish by-law violations, charges can be laid against people who contribute to coyote problems by feeding them,” said the report.

The report warned that coyotes were complex and difficult and increasingly losing their natural distrust and fear of urban humans, mainly due to “human feeding, both intentional and unintentional.”

“Individual animals become increasingly bold in the presence of humans. They learn very quickly and pass this information along to their offspring. It is a growing problem in urban coyote populations throughout North America. In cases where there is a threat to human safety the provincial wildlife authorities will investigate. Where possible the animal will be located and destroyed.”

The report said translocation was not feasible. Tranquilizer darts have limited utility because coyotes tend to be small and thin and take up to 20 minutes to act.

“Other lethal methods such as snares, kill traps and poisons pose significant liabilities when attempted in an area with a dense population of people and pets.”

(Twitter/Bryan Adams)

Public meetings in 2000 produced a three-pronged strategy that relied on responding to individual aggressive and hazardous animals, the 24-hour 604-681-WILD hotline for public reports and information sharing with the park board, Stanley Park Ecology Society, Vancouver Coastal Health and Vancouver Police. 

The 2001 report speculated that a no-feeding message at the centre of public education and awareness programs would have a much broader impact than enforcement. So the city earmarked $16,000 to expand the public information hotline from three days a week to seven and to pay for a Park Board Wildlife Ranger to respond to reports of coyote aggression. The park board granted $17,000 for the Stanley Park Ecology Society to produce and distribute brochures and education materials.

The report said coyotes breed in January and February and young are born in April and May. By early summer, the young are out with parents learning to hunt for rodents, cats, fruit, vegetables and carcasses of dead animals.

“In the city their diet will also include easier to acquire food sources including compost piles, human food and garbage.”

Vancouver’s coyote population was estimated to be 200 to 250, while the Fraser Valley was estimated to have 2,000 to 3,000. Coyotes were first observed in Stanley Park in 1988, though there were reported sightings in early 20th century Vancouver. In rural areas they can travel up to 100 km.

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