Coyotes Not a Danger to Humans in Mississauga

Coyotes have been in the news frequently in the wake of several attacks—some of them fatal, unfortunately—on household pets.

According to this CityNews video, yet another Mississauga resident is reeling after a near-fatal attack on her dog, Lola. The woman told CityNews that three coyotes mauled and severely injured her 15 pound mixed-breed dog outside of her home.

Fortunately, veterinarians at Clarkson Village Animal Hospital were able to save Lola and she appears to be doing well.

While the event shook Lola’s owner, she told the news outlet that she harbours no ill will towards the coyotes and wants to use the attack as an opportunity to raise awareness of the dangers coyotes pose to house pets and to teach people how to better protect their furry loved ones.

Her level-headed and rational approach is refreshing, especially a time where some people may be overestimating the danger coyotes pose to humans.

Mississauga City Councillor Jim Tovey recently shared a City of Mississauga graphic on his Twitter page that puts coyote danger into perspective.

According to the graphic, dog and coyote conflicts rose slightly between 2015 and 2016 (three coyote and dog conflicts were recorded in 2015 versus four in 2016), but so did dog conflicts in general.

The graphic shows that in 2015, 129 dog to human conflicts were reported. In 2016, that number rose to 157 in 2016.

As of now, there have been no reported attacks on humans by coyotes in Mississauga and it’s important to remember that—especially since coyotes do serve a purpose.

According to Mississauga Animal Services, coyotes are an important part of the urban ecosystem because they control rodent and rabbit populations (sad for the tiny rodents and adorable bunnies). They tend to hunt after dusk and before dawn, so you’re unlikely to encounter one while you’re out and about with your dog during the day.

While people are often concerned that a coyote might attack a human (namely a child or small adult), the risk is low.
Typically, coyotes shy away from humans, but are known to watch and follow people from afar out of natural curiosity. If you display an aggressive action while being watched by a coyote (such as yelling or moving quickly), there’s a good chance it will become frightened and leave.

So, what do you do if you encounter a coyote while walking your dog?

According to Mississauga Animal Services, it’s best to stay calm and wait for the animal to retreat. If you give into your instinct to turn and run from the petite but quick-footed beasty, it will chase you and your pet (much like a domestic dog would). If the animal continues to approach you, it’s best to stand tall and waive your arms and make yourself as tall as possible.

You can also clap, shout, make startling movements or throw objects in the coyote’s general direction. If you behave aggressively and erratically, the coyote will likely run off. That said, do not approach or attempt to chase the animal — that is extremely dangerous and may provoke an attack. You can also startle your furry stalker by opening an umbrella, using a flashlight (you should always carry a flashlight during nighttime walks in unlit areas) or activating an alarm or other loud noise on your phone. If you try to scare the animal away but still feel you are at imminent risk of attack, call 911.

If you see a coyote that appears injured or ill and you want to help, do not attempt to touch or move the animal yourself.
You can report distressed coyotes by calling 905-896-5858.

All that said, you’ve probably read about savage coyote attacks on people and are still worried about your own safety.

Fortunately, an attack should not be high on your list of concerns. According to the Humane Society of The United States, you are more likely to be killed by an errant golf ball or flying champagne cork than a coyote. Most attacks occur when humans are feeding coyotes and when people are intervening in an attack on a smaller animal (often — and most tragically — their pet). Sometimes, people are bitten by coyotes that they have cornered (which is why you should never, ever attempt to attack the animal). On rare occasions, rabid coyotes bite people.

In terms of fatal attacks, they are almost unheard of. There are currently only two known incidents of people being killed by coyotes. In the 1980s, a child was killed by an animal in Southern California and in 2009, a young Toronto woman was fatally attacked in Nova Scotia.

At this point, absolutely no reputable organization is recommending an urban coyote cull (mass killing) because they’re not a significant threat to city residents.

Since it’s unlikely that you will be your local coyote’s next victim, it’s important to focus on protecting your pets.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, you can safeguard your home by installing flashing lights, motion sensors and noise makers and erecting a tall fence (although you’ll have to ensure its height doesn’t violate local bylaws).

According to the city of Mississauga, you should also try to store garbage indoors until collection day or tightly lock and secure receptacles (animals that are around humans a lot because of nearby food sources ultimately become less afraid of them, increasing the risk of an encounter). You should also carefully clean your BBQ grill and tools to reduce traces of food and refrain from giving your cat or dog their food outdoors.

If you have a dog or cat that you are worried about, you should keep them indoors at night and ensure your yard is free from pet waste (coyotes are attracted to dog feces). You should also spay and neuter your dogs because coyotes may try to mate with them otherwise.

You can also keep your pets safe by keeping your dog on a short leash and discouraging it from chasing wildlife. You should also inspect your yard for coyotes before letting your pet outside — especially at night. If you’re very nervous about letting your dog or cat into your yard after dark, accompany them and bring an umbrella (opening one suddenly should scare any lurking coyotes).

All in all, be vigilant but not paranoid. It is highly unlikely that a coyote will attack you or your children and you can take
common sense steps to ensure your pets are safe.

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