'I don’t feel scared anymore': Volunteers armed with tennis balls part of coyote intervention program
EDMONTON -- When Izabella Roth takes her pint-sized puppy Hiccup on walks, she is always mindful of coyotes.
“He’s older and little slower so coyotes would probably find Hiccup to be a really great treat,” Roth told CTV News.
That, coupled with her love of coyotes, is part of the reason why Roth volunteers with the Edmonton Urban Coyote Program.
“I did a little bit of coyote tracking on my own before I even knew the program existed,” said Roth. “I followed the famous trio (coyotes) here in Rossdale and there is a video that I sent out around Christmas time and I was approaching coyotes and they were not fearful at all of me and I ran after them.”
According to experts, urban coyotes are creeping into Edmonton neighborhoods more often.
“Gradually over time the number of reports and the sense that people have of the boldness of coyotes, have both increased,” said Colleen St. Clair, professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta.
In fact, the City of Edmonton received 1821 coyote complaints last year and have received 433 so far this year.
“We do have a few coyotes who prey on stray cats and little dogs,” said Gabrielle Lajeunesse from the Urban Coyote Intervention Program. ”We did have quite a few incidents of coyotes biting people.”
The program is aimed at keeping coyotes wild. Around 40 volunteers were recruited to patrol Edmonton neighbourhoods for coyotes – and intimidate them by any means necessary.
“If a coyote leaves when a volunteer is over 40 metres away that’s great that’s what we want, if it doesn’t leave the volunteers run towards them and throws weighted tennis balls in their direction,” said Lajeunesse, who is armed with weighted tennis balls, a pop can noise maker, and an umbrella.
“So the goal is to make them more wary of people.”
The initiative appears to be working, according to Roth.
“I have had two aversive conditionings with coyotes and the first one being a trio and I was able to hit one successfully,” explained Roth. “It is anecdotal but ever since the last aversive condition I performed we haven’t seen any (coyotes).”
St. Clair hopes this initiative will help people peacefully co-exist with coyotes.
“We might have an alternative between just tolerating everything they do and trying to kill them,” said St. Clair.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Chelan Skulski