Canadian city launches urban coyote hotline

Urban coyote, Montreal Image copyright Global News/YouTube
Image caption Montrealers have stumbled across coyotes on street corners

Coyotes are becoming such frequent visitors to Montreal that the Canadian city has set up a hotline so the public can report sightings.

The local authorities say 379 coyotes have been spotted, five people bitten, and 11 dogs attacked since June last year, and acknowledge that they don't know how many of the animals are roaming the northern parts of the city at present, the CBC public broadcaster reports.

Montreal only started to track coyotes last summer, and so has nothing with which to compare current figures.

The phone line, open during office hours seven days a week, is staffed by nature and environment specialists who can advise the public on what to do if they come face-to-face with a coyote.

It seems that only a small number of the animals are a cause for concern. Emilie Thuillier, the mayor of the city's northern Ahuntsic-Cartierville Borough, told CBC "We think the problem is that some coyotes are sick, or were fed by humans, or were provoked".

Nature wardens will also patrol parks, go door-to-door and visit schools to raise awareness about the animals over the next few weeks, as the cold season comes to an end.

Coyotes have often come into Montreal looking for food in winter, but now these solitary animals that usually shy from human contact are losing their fear of people - especially if they're being fed, CBC says.

'Trapping hasn't worked'

Trapping them is one option. The city has spent 30,000 Canadian dollars (US$23,800; £16,800) on professional trappers, and caught 19 coyotes in Frédéric-Back Park - a former landfill site turned public open space - last autumn alone.

But not everyone is convinced. Anita Kapuscinska of the Montreal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told the Montreal Gazette that trapping and relocating the animals breaks up their family groups, and "does not solve the problem, because other coyotes will come to replace them".

Image copyright Global News/YouTube
Image caption The coyotes are sometimes sick or hungry

Mayor Thuillier agrees that the programme "hasn't worked" so far, and the city is now offering advice on how best to avoid conflict with coyotes, such as by keeping dogs on a leash and not discarding food waste.

The Coyote Watch Canada organisation has praised Montreal's hotline and information initiatives, calling them "positive steps to foster non-lethal co-existence", and many residents have welcomed the patrols.

Marie-Pierre Milot-Bourque said she had taken to arming herself with a stick when walking her dogs near Frédéric-Back Park to ward off coyotes lurking under pine trees.

"It's past due. One, we have to think of the kids, there are plenty of kids here, and we think of our dogs too. At a certain point it's a drag because we're always scared that something will happen," she told CBC.

David Rodrigue of the Ecomuseum Zoo has a final piece of advice. "Don't try to take selfies with the coyote," he told CTV Montreal. "Just enjoy the fact that it's there and it's an animal, and you have the opportunity to see him."

Image copyright Global News/YouTube
Image caption Coyotes are happiest in the wild

Reporting by Alistair Coleman and Martin Morgan

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