Many wildlife sightings are being reported this spring, which could mean less traffic on the pandemic-cleared roads is inviting more animals into the city. (Advocate file photo.)

Pandemic-cleared roadways could be enticing more wildlife into Red Deer

Naturalist Todd Nivens cautions residents to be watchful

Fewer cars on Red Deer’s roads could mean more wildlife traffic in the city, says Todd Nivens, executive director of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.

Nivens has come across plenty of coyote scat — as well as signs of moose, deer and fox — on his way to work in the morning.

He cautions city residents to be aware of the potential for more wild animals in the city this spring — particularly since a toddler was apparently injured this week in a coyote attack in Edmonton.

“We always have signs up (at the centre) telling people to exercise caution when it comes to wildlife … to give them space,” said Nivens.

Besides “yipping” coyotes indicating a predator presence in the city, there are “1,500 pound moose” who can’t change direction very easily when charging, and unpredictable deer that can exhibit territorial behaviour, said Nivens.

He’s also aware of the presence of weasels, garter snakes and snowshoe hares.

Many wildlife sightings have been reported lately, but Nivens is unsure if that’s because more people are now walking outdoors in the warmer weather, or more animals are taking advantage of calmer, pandemic-cleared streets to encroach a little further into the city.

A two-year-old girl playing in Edmonton’s Coronation Park on Monday evening disappeared from sight for a moment and came back holding her ear.

Her grandfather saw a coyote darting away and believes the animal tried to grab his granddaughter, who later received reconstructive surgery to her ear.

“It’s actually a miracle that she came out of it as she did,” the child’s aunt told Edmonton media.

Nivens said coyotes consider anything smaller than they are to be prey — including little children and pets — so area residents should be vigilant.

“So do I think people should panic? No,” said Nivens. “But I am a big proponent of being watchful for all wildlife.”

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