Hearing more eerie sounds at night than usual? Or maybe you’ve spotted a furry, canine silhouette foraging the perimeter of your property? It might be a coyote, as the animals are active right now, in keeping with the season, says the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
“This is the time of year where you’re going to see them,” representative Jolanta Kowalski said Tuesday.
Coyotes have been common in southern Ontario for a century, having migrated from the west. A recent increase in sightings is seasonal and not uncommon, she explained.
“They are the busiest right now. They are heading into breeding season so they are on the move in the daytime, which is kind of unusual, looking for food.”
The sightings have the ministry fielding a higher volume of calls from concerned Ontarians asking if coyote populations are on the rise, though that’s not the case, said Kowalski.
“We don’t believe so, but they are definitely near the peak of their breeding season.”
This is an ideal time of year for individual coyotes, many male but also some female to scour for food and search out potential mates. And with more snow on the ground this year, it’s no surprise that they are more visible as the white stuff removes any camouflage the animals may receive from foliage, grass or bare earth.
“When there’s no snow it’s hard to see coyotes, so all of those things kind of pull together and people think they are seeing more of them when they probably aren’t. But that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be cautious, of course,” she added.
Despite coyotes’ reputation, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) argues “coyotes have a tremendously positive impact on an area’s biodiversity and ecological integrity.”
The SPCA also advises that humans should safely coexist with the species. Organization representative Alison Cross said there are many ways to avoid contact or conflict with coyotes. Well lit, fenced properties with motion sensors are less likely to be traversed by the animals. Spaying your pets to hide their scent as well as keeping them inside or out of open areas unsupervised are also key measures.
If you do encounter one, don’t look the animal directly in the eyes, and avoid turning your back or running.
As for the hunters on their tails, Kowalski said hunting is allowed under a small gaming license and there is no closed season on the animals. Hunting, however, is not advised as a population control measure, as their numbers bounce back quickly.
About 40 years ago, she noted, the bounty on coyotes was disbanded after proving to be ineffective as hunters killed the animals indiscriminately instead of focusing on the specific animal that was causing harm by preying on livestock or causing issues on properties like farms.
Added the SPCA’s Cross, “killing coyotes only disrupts the natural social order of the coyotes in the area and can actually create additional problems for people.”
Trapping coyotes for relocation is also dangerous, inadvisable and illegal in the province.
Helpful tips can be found on the Ontario SPCA and the MNR websites, while links to local resources and factsheets can be found on the Waterloo Region Police Services (WRPS) website.