Coyotes vs. Canadians: a toddler attack, a punch to the snout

Coyote curled up on ground [Credit: John Picken]

It’s spring, and, like humans, coyotes are out enjoying the weather.

While you may not often see coyotes in your streets, odds are there are coyotes living in your city. In the U.S., a study found coyotes living in over 90% of cities, and there’s little reason to believe the situation isn’t similar in Canada. In Vancouver alone, there are over 200 coyotes, while Calgary may have as many as 500, according to some estimates.

Coyotes are generally active at night and they tend to avoid humans, but in urban settings, they can become accustomed to being around people, leading to sightings and conflicts. Coyotes are often particularly interested in pets, who can become easy prey for the hunters. Here are a few recent encounters that have made headlines, and what you can do to avoid similar incidents.

Toddler receives almost 150 stitches after coyote attack

A three-year-old in Burnaby, B.C., was attacked in his backyard and badly injured.

Amanda Dycke, the toddler’s mother, told Global News that she had been spending the afternoon out in the backyard with her son, Ayden, prior to the attack. She then stepped inside for a moment to check on dinner, and while she was gone, the boy opened the gate to the yard. As Dycke returned to the yard, she saw her son was gone, and moments later, heard him start to scream.  

She ran onto the sidewalk, where she saw a coyote “biting his head while he was on the ground trying to protect himself the best he could.”

She charged at the animal and made noise, but it did not run away.

“It only backed off enough that when I got there I scooped him up and started running back to the backyard because the kids were still out there.”

Coyote in city street
A neighbour took a photo of a coyote seen around the time of the attack, possibly the same animal. [Credit: John Macnaughton]

Dycke called 911, and Ayden was taken by ambulance to the hospital with puncture wounds and bite marks on his head and neck. A plastic surgeon gave him 148 stitches, which should help minimize scarring. He returned home the next day, where he is recovering.

The B.C. Conservation Service found a coyote matching the description of the one that attacked Ayden and euthanized it. They said it seemed unafraid, and came when called. It’s believed that it had been fed by humans in the past and lost its fear of them.

Woman punches coyote in the face to protect a dog

Also in B.C., a woman fought off a coyote that attacked a dog near a hiking trail by Grouse Mountain.

Denise Baker-Grant, a dog-walker, was parking her truck and getting ready to walk her dogs when she heard a woman screaming nearby. She ran towards the sound and saw a woman with a medium-sized dog on a leash that was being attacked by a coyote.

“And I found this lady holding her dog, and a coyote had it on the back end, and she was trying to pull, and the coyote was pulling,” Baker-Grant told the CBC.

The woman, Baker-Grant said, was holding onto the dog’s front end, while the coyote tried to wrestle it away from the back. Seeing this, Baker-Grant did the first thing she could think to: she punched the coyote in the face.

Coyote growling at dog
Most dogs attacked by coyotes are off-leash, though in the recent incident in the North Shore, a coyote attacked a dog while it was on a leash and its owner was present. [Credit: anthempets.org]

“I came around behind it and grabbed it behind the neck and I swung around and hit it right in the jaw,” she said.

The coyote dropped the dog, but Baker-Grant had to kick it a few times to get it to leave.

The dog’s owner, shaken, took the dog back to her car to clean its wounds with a first-aid kit. Baker-Grant said the dog didn’t seem gravely injured.

“It only had two or three little holes in it.”

Coyotes in cities become habituated to humans

Coyotes generally hide from humans. In fact, while wild coyotes hunt during the day, urban coyotes have become nocturnal in order to avoid humans. However, when people feed coyotes, they stop being afraid of us, and may approach us for food, leading to attacks.

Greg Hart, Manager of Co-Existing with Coyotes, told the CBC that when people encounter coyotes, they should “haze” them, which is another term for scaring them away. This helps maintain boundaries and shows coyotes that they are on your territory and should keep away.

“Put some coins and rocks in [a pop can], give it a good shake — it’s a really loud noise and it’s really effective at scaring away coyotes,” he said.

People are encouraged not to run away when they see a coyote, but to back off slowly while making noise.

Hart also noted that most attacks on pets occur when the pets are off-leash. Coyotes in the spring are protective of their dens and young, so if a dog off-leash runs by, a coyote may feel threatened and attack.

While pets do sometimes get eaten by coyotes, Hart says that it is far from their main source of food.

“Researchers have done scat analysis [and] found that domestic animals only make up one to two per cent of their diet.”

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