A woman walking her dog near the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary was alarmed by a close wildlife encounter this week.
The out-of-breath city resident initially described being “chased by a wolf” while walking her dog on Michener Centre grounds, above the Gaetz Lakes escarpment and near the east access gate to the sanctuary.
It was more likely the woman and her pet had a close encounter with a coyote, said Kathryn Huedepohl, program lead at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, as wolf sightings are incredibly rare around Red Deer.
Huedepohl noted Alberta is “thick” with the smaller canine relatives of the wolf, which view pint-sized pets as prey and larger dogs as threats.
She knows coyotes have been in or near the sanctuary. “We’ve seen signs in their scat and their tracks… they follow the deer around.”
Shortly after the woman had her animal encounter earlier this week, the sound of a howling coyote and a barking dog — presumably being walked by another pet owner — could be heard coming from the direction of Gaetz Lakes.
Huedepohl noted that pets are not allowed in the sanctuary, because confrontations can occur. “It can be disruptive to wildlife.”
She feels a lone walker in the sanctuary is unlikely to be bothered by coyotes. “They are usually heard, but not seen… This was a rare encounter that this woman had.”
Signs posted on the doors of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre warn residents to be cautious of wildlife encounters in the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary. Deer and moose are entering their rutting season.
“The moose and the deer are getting silly. They’ve just got mating on their minds,” said Huedepohl, who advises people to hang back if they see a wild animal ahead.
“Stop if you see them and stay a safe distance away.”
A moose will generally size up a human. If it sees no threat, it will go back to eating, she added.
Red Deer has the unique advantage of having a green belt running through it, she said.
While most wildlife encounters prompt nothing more than snapping a photo, Huedepohl believes that pet owners should be aware that coyotes are among the creatures that have learned to co-exist with humans in the city.
Like all wildlife, she believes they should be respected and given their space.