Kevin Cantelon grew up rambling through the Whitemud and Mill Creek ravines with his best friend, the son of a biologist, and remembers hearing coyotes howling in the distance at his family’s farm.
He never imagined that he would be seeing coyotes right outside his house in the city.
“I recently learned that it’s only the last 10 or 20 years that they’ve been moving into cities right across North America,” he noted. As a biologist and educator, it’s an interesting development that enriches his experience living at the edge of Kinnaird Ravine.
“I spent two years out at Elk Island in ’95, ’96 on a coyote study. We would put 25 coyotes on radio collars to find out where their home range was, where they were going. In those days, there wasn’t any such thing as an urban coyote.”
It may be a sign of a healthy environment that so many birds, mammals, and fish are choosing to live within city limits. Cantelon has seen jackrabbits, flying squirrels, porcupines, and coyotes. Once, his neighbour saw a moose on Jasper Avenue. Though rare, people have spotted cougar, lynx, and black bear in other parts of the city, and Spruce Avenue resident Lisa Lunn was surprised late one night by a massive snowy owl on the roof of her car.
“I was pregnant and I had insomnia, so I would get up and I went to the back window by the kitchen sink and what? There was an owl sitting on top of our car. It was striking because it was almost the size of the roof of the car. Watching it, it was pretty impressive.”
We are lucky to be so close to nature in this city, said Shawn Beskowiney, park ranger with the City of Edmonton.
“Edmonton is one of the largest urban wildlife interfaces in North America. The river valley is a wildlife corridor, so any animal that is native to Alberta and our ecozone can live here.”
Beskowiney explained wildlife sometimes they come out of the more thickly treed areas and right into our neighbourhoods. When they do, they’re just seeing an opportunity.
“Wildlife are the same as humans. They go where they can get the things they need to survive: food, shelter, habitat. A little neighbourhood park might attract rabbits, so coyotes would see that and think, ‘oh my goodness, there’s my food’. And they take advantage of what we provide. They’re a very intelligent and generalist species.”
While the odd jackrabbit or woodpecker might be a fun sighting, a predator like a coyote might be a little more alarming. A few years ago, Lunn started seeing coyotes, and even had one camping out under her front step. While she has never felt threatened by the large canines, she is careful about letting her elderly cat and small dog out, and her neighbours have an informal network looking out for each other’s small pets.
“I’m texting neighbours. A lot of pet owners around here let each other know when we see them. It’s in community league letters, and a neighbour put a letter in our mailbox, and some people have reported a pair together.”
She noted that coyotes, magpies, and ravens have shown up on garbage day, which is why she tries to take the trash out in the morning of garbage pickup day rather than leave it overnight.
This is one important thing we can do to reduce the chances of a negative wildlife encounter. With the exception of bird feeders, don’t leave food or garbage out. According to Beskowiney, “Fed wildlife is dead wildlife. If they get desensitized and we give it a good meal, it’s going to go to the next person and expect food, and that could lead to a negative interaction if they learn to approach humans.”
He said it’s unlikely that coyotes will attack a human, but it’s our job to make sure they don’t get too comfortable in our spaces.
“The number one thing is to keep wildlife wild. If you see something, check it out, but encourage it to get back to where it’s from and make sure they understand that humans are not a source of safety or food.”
Generally they avoid intervening unless it is a potential danger, but do call 311 for a park ranger if you have trouble. For injured birds, contact Wild North or the Birds of Prey Centre for advice. However, the city generally can’t supply medical care for most wild animals.
“Injured wildlife can react negatively, so it’s important not to touch them even if it’s a baby bird or rabbit that seems like they’ve been left or injured. They’re very sensitive to stress and they end up dying. We strongly discourage it,” he explained. “With spring coming up, it’s important to keep it in the forefront and encourage healthy relationships of mutual respect, and stay out of each other’s way.”
Friends of the Kinnaird Ravine Facebook page
Edmonton Urban Coyotes: edmontonurbancoyotes.ca/
Wild North: wildnorth.ca
Alberta Society for Injured Birds of Prey: raptorshelter.org/
Featured Image: Kevin Cantelon, a biologist and educator, has seen coyotes in Sheriff Robertson Park near Kinnaird Ravine. | Kevin Cantelon
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