Conservation officers have euthanized a pair of coyotes, believed to be responsible for a series of attacks on joggers in Stanley Park in the last three weeks.
B.C. Conservation Officer Service Sgt. Simon Gravel says there have been nine reports of attacks since mid December.
Some of the people suffered minor scratches, while others were sent to hospital for tetanus shots and treatment.
“People were just running, and all of a sudden they had some pain in their legs,” he said.
“Or in some cases they saw the coyote, and the coyote was persistent and came to them and bit them in the calf.”
Last week, officials were forced to close trails and asked people to keep away from a section of the park near Brockton Oval while they searched for the animals.
Conservation officers later trapped the two healthy, adult coyotes that matched the description from the attacks.
Gravel believes human actions were at the root of the coyotes’ aggressive behaviour.
“There’s multiple contributing factors,” he said.
“One of them, we know, is coyotes being fed by humans. So our strong message here, walking away from Stanley Park, is never feed a coyote. Never feed wildlife.”
Dannie Piezas, urban wildlife programs coordinator at Stanley Park Ecology Society, said there are fewer than 10 of the animals living in the park, likely in a single family pack.
She said it is very unusual for coyotes to be aggressive, but said anecdotal evidence suggests the animals have become bolder over the course of the pandemic.
She also linked the behaviour to feeding, despite the lower tourist traffic during COVID-19.
Piezas said she knows a number of people regularly come to the park to feed animals, in some cases even leaving dog food for raccoons — which coyotes can also eat.
“After the news came out, a lot of people were reporting to us after the fact, ‘Hey, I had this experience in the park, I saw someone feeding a coyote,'” she said.
“I think coyotes are very charismatic and cute, and I’m sure a lot of other people do, so it’s very hard for some folks to see that and not want to offer something.”
Piezas said people may think they’re doing something good or helping the animals, but in the long run they’re putting them at risk of being put down.
If people do see coyotes in the park, Piezas recommended they do what they can to scare them away, to ensure they keep a healthy fear of humans.
People can make noise, shout, make themselves larger or use objects such as umbrellas to try and drive the coyotes away, she said.
Gravel reminded the public that feeding any wildlife is illegal in B.C., and said doing so also prevents conservation officers from having to kill them if they become habituated.
“Obviously no one wants to see that. It’s something that can be avoided,” he said.
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