Edmonton’s river valley and ravine system is the largest urban park in North America, and serves as a corridor for movement of wildlife regularly through the area. As one of Alberta's native wildlife species, coyotes have a natural and beneficial role as scavengers who can also help manage rodent and small mammal population within the city itself.
Coyotes are part of the dog family but generally have longer legs, oversized pointed ears and large bushy tails with black tips. An average adult coyote weighs 9 to 14 kilograms and is just over a metre long from nose tip to the tip of their tail. Coyotes have light grey or tan coats of variable lengths and slim pointed muzzles.
Coyote sightings are common within the city but it’s only necessary to report a coyote sighting if the coyote:
Bites, nips or makes other physical contact with a pet or person
Is so injured or sick that it cannot move
Is trapped in an area of your yard (private property)
Someone is feeding the coyote
When an incident with a coyote is reported, the City will investigate and determine if a problem exists. Depending on the circumstances, an appropriate course of action will be taken. This could include public education, warning signs or coyote management techniques.
Coyotes have long existed alongside humans and have adapted to live within population centres because of the opportunities they present to foraging scavengers. As our city grows and expands into traditional wild habitat, more coyotes are adapting to food sources in residential areas eating readily available backyard food sources such as garbage, fruit and pet food.
Coyotes can be territorial and could consider your dog a threat. Coyotes may try to draw a dog away and attack it to eliminate the threat. Keeping your dog close on a leash at all times is the best way to ensure its safety.
The City of Edmonton's Animal Licensing and Control Bylaw requires owners to prevent their cats and dogs from roaming free and unsupervised off of their property. By permitting your pets to roam free outside of your property, you provide the opportunity for a potentially serious encounter between your pet and a coyote.
Coyotes naturally hunt rodents and small mammals such as rabbits or hares, in addition to being opportunistic feeders who may consume garbage, fruit or even insects. As such, coyotes do not look at humans as prey, and are generally afraid of us, although urban coyotes can become desensitized to human activity or presence. Coyotes perceive humans as being providers or resources they can exploit and it is common to see increased presence in neighbourhoods during garbage days or when garbage is placed out and easily accessible beforehand.
Coyotes do not pose a threat to humans and the extremely rare cases of physical contact are almost always as a direct result of feeding/desensitization. Coyotes have a weaker bite than wolves, foxes, most dogs and even humans!
Coyote In Your Neighbourhood
Park Rangers Ryan Smar & Kara Marshall deliver a webinar on Urban Coyotes in Edmonton. Learn what to do if you encounter a coyote, how to coyote-proof your yard, what attracts coyotes & how you can help keep coyotes wild & decrease coyote-human conflict.
What to Do if You Encounter a Coyote
To prevent coyote attacks on humans, modern wildlife management focuses on ‘aversive conditioning’. This practice tries to change an animal’s behaviour by making every human coyote encounter unpleasant for the animal. This method only works if we all respond to coyote encounters aggressively. If a coyote does approach, make it feel unwelcome. They should not feel comfortable around us.
Take These Immediate Steps
Clap your hands loudly and firmly towards the animal
Respond to its presence aggressively by making yourself appear large (wave your arms overhead or swing objects like a walking stick at the coyote)
Throw rocks, sticks or other objects to scare it away
Carry a whistle and blow it to startle the animal
Carry dog spray in areas highly frequented by coyotes
Shout in a deep voice and maintain eye contact
Do not turn away or run. This may trigger a natural predator/prey instinct and might encourage the coyote to chase after you
If the coyote continues to approach, back away slowly and move toward buildings or human activity. Coyotes may remain near a source of food or a den site, and this could be the reason they refuse to leave. Be mindful of situations like this, and remove attractants if possible