Medicine River Wildlife Centre found coyote foster families for coyote pups that were brought to the centre this summer. (Photo contributed)

Medicine River Wildlife Centre says coyotes attacking children are rare

Culling is not the solution

Recent coyote attacks in Airdrie have a local wildlife expert wondering whether the incidents were actually carried out by the predators.

On Dec. 14, a coyote reportedly bit a child on the leg, and on Dec. 17, a coyote got hold of a child’s clothing.

Carol Kelly, executive director of Medicine River Wildlife Centre, said a coyote typically never goes after a child. But if it’s injured, starving and desperate, it’s possible, just like injured owls occasionally go after dogs in winter.

The fact that they ran away was also unusual, she said.

“A coyote serious about attacking something doesn’t stop at one little bite and run away,” Kelly said.

She said it’s also possible it was a stray dog, or a dog/coyote cross, which acts like a dog one minute and a coyote the next.

“Were they dogs? Were they dog/coyote crosses? Were they not well? There’s just oodles of questions.”

She said in the past, fish and wildlife officers in Calgary have told her most reports of coyotes are almost always stray dogs, even though coyotes do live in and around urban areas.

“There are coyotes right in Red Deer. That’s one of many reasons I encourage people to keep their cats at home. Fox don’t eat cats, but coyotes do.”

In the summer, Medicine River Wildlife Centre looked after about five coyote pups until foster families were found on a large ranch in eastern Alberta, where the rancher wants to maintain a balanced animal ecosystem.

“We make a real effort for predators to be raised naturally, and we want to put them in an area where there’s not going to be neighbour complaints.”

The centre has also worked with landowners where coyotes were becoming a nuisance. Since wolves prey on coyotes, wolf urine was sprinkled on the outer edges of the properties. A recording of wolf howls can also be played in the evenings to deter coyotes.

“We’ve done it now on three separate properties, with all the land owners saying it worked perfectly.”

Kelly said culling is never the answer.

“If you go out and kill a bunch of coyotes, or skunks, or anything else, the next female in the area will have bigger litters, so you’re not solving the problem. If that were the case, we’d have no skunks or coyotes left. They can always replenish and have more.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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