Maple Ridge residents are howling about coyotes.
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service reports that the volume of complaints about these varmints has more than doubled in the past year, and it has been forced to kill more of them.
The number of coyote calls doubled from 97 to 216, from April 1 to Dec. 11, 2012, compared with the same time frame in 2013.
The number killed has risen from five to nine.
“They had a good winter,” said Sgt. Steven Jacobi, who said rising populations are just part of any ecosystem’s natural ebb of flow.
The hottest spots in the Fraser Valley are Maple Ridge, Chilliwack and Surrey. The total calls for those communities has risen from 521 to 927, and the number of coyotes killed has gone from 15 to 24.
Jacobi explained that 90 per cent of complaints from people who are fearful – there are coyotes in the area, so residents can’t let their pets outside, or they fear for their children. Many reported that coyotes were following them as they walked a dog.
“They are extremely adept at living in urban areas,” Jacobi said.
Coyotes do stalk people as they walk their dogs, or while they hike a rural trail. While this behaviour is unnerving, it is seldom dangerous, Jacobi added.
“The coyote is after your food, or your pet.”
Dogs should never be allowed to interact with coyotes. They are dangerous to any pet left outside or even running off leash. Small dogs are easy prey, but bigger dogs are not necessarily safe.
“They’re used to preying on things and killing,” he said. “Two or three coyotes will kill any size of dog.”
Jacobi said conservation officers too often hear reports about people intentionally feeding coyotes. This is a crime that can result in a fine.
People also indirectly feed coyotes by leaving food sources where they can get it. Garbage bags left out the night before are targets for all kinds of wildlife.
Coyotes should always be discouraged from being around people or their pets.
When coyotes lose their fear of man – such as when they attack a pet that is being walked on a leash, or become too aggressive in their pursuit of other food sources – they will be killed.
Unlike bears, coyotes are not successfully relocated. They can be hazed with loud scare devices, but these are effective “for about two minutes,” said Jacobi.
He urges the public to keep the threat represented by coyotes in perspective – their child is still more likely to be hurt by their neighbour’s German shepherd.
“There’s more of a chance of being bitten by a domestic dog than a coyote.”
The incidents where people have been bitten occur when they stick their hands into coyote dens, hand-feed them, swat at coyotes or defend their pet.
Conservation officers are busy, and don’t respond to many of the complaints – 17 and 18 in Maple Ridge in each of the past two years.
“Human health and safety are our priorities,” Jacobi said. “We risk-rank everything.”
The best defence against coyotes is a tall fence, and it should be partially below ground to keep them from digging under.
• If a coyote has acted aggressively or displayed aggressive behaviour towards a human, refer to the Ministry Call Centre (1-877-952-7277).
Farmers and ranchers can use existing hunting and trapping seasons to control predators. They must ensure that they comply with all federal, provincial and municipal regulations surrounding hunting, trapping and the discharge of firearms in their area.
Home owners who have a nuisance coyote can also have them trapped by a licenced trapper, and referrals can be given by the ministry.
“They’ve very hard to trap because they’re pretty wiley.”