While there is speculation by many people that the animal shot by Joe Fleming on the Bonavista Peninsula is not an eastern coyote most common to Newfoundland, but rather a wolf of hybrid species, there is no doubting that you would not want to encounter this animal in any living way, shape or form. It also leaves you to wonder that if this one was out there, how long has it been in the province? Has it had the chance to breed? Are there more just like it out there?
While looking for information on coyotes on the Provincial Government Environment and Conservation website, it was interesting to note that coyotes are now considered native to Newfoundland and Labrador because they extended their range naturally and through their own efforts. It also indicates that no other carnivore in recent years has expanded its range as successfully as the coyote, which has moved from the Midwestern United States throughout most of North America in the last 100 years. That makes sense since the only real predator of coyotes in this province is humans.
What causes unease when it comes to coyotes is the fact that they are opportunistic carnivores who will eat anything available including caribou, moose carrion, snowshoe hare and other small mammals, birds, fruits and berries, garbage, birdseed, and on occasion, house pets. There is also the case of a 19-year-old hiker who was fatally attacked by coyotes in Cape Breton Highlands Park in 2009. It was an isolated incident, but one that instills in each one of us a primal fear of these animals.
The Department of Environment and Conservation Wildlife Division indicates through their literature that by respecting each others' boundaries, humans and wildlife can coexist with conflict being avoided. That makes sense, but everyone knows most Newfoundlanders have a love of the outdoors, and it's not all about hunting. There are those who just like to take a stroll through the woods, and many walking trails are in fact through wooded areas that could be considered coyote territory. Education and watching for signs of coyotes in an area are key to dealing with these animals.
Some advice offered by the Wildlife Division if coyotes are near your home (or cabin):
- Never leave edible garbage or pet food outside.
- Limit use of birdseed, and pick up fallen fruit around your property.
- Keep pets indoors, or under supervision when outside. Roaming or unattended pets are an easy target for coyotes. Have pets spayed or neutered to avoid attracting coyotes.
- Never attempt to tame a coyote by feeding it. (Although attacks on humans are extremely rare, they can occur if a coyote becomes too comfortable around people and starts associating humans with food.)
- If you are having a problem with coyotes near your home, contact a local Conservation Officer or other authority.
If a coyote approaches you:
- Stop, remain calm and assess your situation.
- Never approach or crowd a coyote -give it an escape route.
- If the coyote seems unaware of you, move away quietly when it is not looking in your direction.
- If the coyote is aware of you, respond aggressively: wave your arms, shout and maintain eye contact. Carry a whistle and blow it to startle the animal.
- Throw rocks, sticks or other objects at the coyote. It's a good idea to carry a walking stick with you for protection if necessary.
- If the coyote continues to approach, back away slowly and move towards buildings or human activity. Do not turn away or run. This will encourage the coyote to chase you.
- If the coyote attacks you, fight back.
- Karen Wells