Michelle Epp has been keeping an eye on her dog since visiting coyotes have taken other pets in years past.

Michelle Epp has been keeping an eye on her dog since visiting coyotes have taken other pets in years past.

Coyotes a cause for concern for Fruitvale resident

Fruitvale's Michelle Epp is concerned for her pets and children since coyotes have moved in on her property.

An Area A resident is fearful for her pet and now her children, too, since neighbourhood coyotes have made her property part of their hunting grounds.

Living with wildlife is not new for Michelle Epp, whose home is on 11 acres outside of Fruitvale on the way to Nipkow Greenhouse. But in the past 11 years her and her husband Kirby have resided there, they’ve lost a small dog and cat to the coyotes and just last week the predators challenged their golden retriever. Epp is noticing more coyotes these days and is at a loss of how to move forward.

“Usually we are vaguely aware of the coyotes existence, take whatever precautions we can, and go about our busy lives,” she said. “But when they are so prevalent, like right now, and they are coming right into our front yard trying to take down my docile, loyal golden retriever, their existence is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”

Their 12-year-old son Josh ensures their dog “Sadie” is safe inside each night before heading to bed and when the kids (14-year-old Colten, Josh and 11-year-old Abby) play shinny in the carport, they go out in pairs.

According to WildSafeBC’s website, coyotes mate in February and March and give birth to about five pups in April or May, which could explain why Epp has noticed more prowling in her neighbourhood. Both males and females tend to their young until the pups have learned to hunt and fend for themselves.

They are efficient hunters and the bulk of their diet comes from small mammals but they will eat birds, snakes, insects and berries when the opportunity presents itself, the website continues. Urban coyotes have learned how to effectively hunt small pets and livestock and will make use of any garbage that is left unsecured.

Over the years the Epps have made sacrifices to rid any attractants from their property, including giving up having geese (after several were taken by the coyotes), but regardless of what measures are taken the scavengers continue to roam their property. Recently a coyote attacked a deer in their neighbour’s backyard and though they managed to scare it off it was too late for the deer that had already bled out.

“I’m the biggest animal lover in the world but I hate them,” admitted Epp. “The only time I wish I had a gun or even thought about owning a gun was because of them.”

Conservation officer Ben Beetlestone said his office doesn’t really get calls about coyotes, which they rarely deal with because unlike bears or cougars they generally don’t pose a threat to people. It can be difficult to trap them, he added, because foot hole traps used to snag them could also trap any other wild animal or even household pet.

Coyotes account for about 500 calls to the provincial Conservation Officer Service reporting line (RAPP) each year with pets and wild stock attacks as the primary cause for these calls. Only one human has been killed by a coyote in Canada and that was in Nova Scotia in 2009.

“We don’t ignore coyote complaints but they rarely lead to the same outcome as a bear that lives in town or a cougar,” said Beetlestone, noting the recent death of an Alberta woman killed by a black bear. “Coyotes might nip a person but they don’t kill people – bears and cougars kill people.”

That said, Beetlestone said that there is a very liberal hunting season on coyotes that runs from September to March when just a regular hunting license is required, no special tag.

Sharon Wieder, Rossland/Trail WildsafeBC community coordinator, agrees that there does seem to be a rise in the local coyote population. She recommends that residents keep pets close by at all times, especially at night, and that parents teach their children about coyote behaviour.

She said kids should know the safety message: do not run, back away slowly, use a stick or similar object to keep the animal away, kick the head and ribs if it approaches aggressively and tell an adult right away if one is spotted.

An adult male coyote will weigh on average 15 kilograms but because of the coyotes long and fluffy coat, they often appear to be much heavier than that. Doglike in appearance, they are distinguished by their large tail and two- toned coat.

As with all wildlife encounters, residents are encouraged to call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1877-952-7277 but Wieder is also available for those with questions at 231-2751 or via email at rossland@wildsafebc.com

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