How Coyotes and Humans Can Learn to Coexist in Cities

How Coyotes and Humans Can Learn to Coexist in Cities
Coyotes and other wildlife are making backyards and urban communities part of their homes.

It’s a common story in many North American cities: a coyote is seen on an urban trail, sports field or schoolyard. Members of the public panic, insisting that the proximity or frequency of these sightings mean the coyote has become bold, aggressive or habituated. Public authorities are pressured to take action and, since relocation is often unfeasible or not permitted, trappers are called in and coyotes are killed, often generating substantial public outcry.

If food resources — garbage, pet food, bird feeders — and community behaviours, like intentional feeding or not wildlife proofing property, remain unchanged, it’s only a matter of time before other animals move in to fill the niche and the cycle begins again.

It’s past time to accept that lethal methods and relocation are neither effective, sustainable nor humane approaches to human-wildlife conflicts. We need better solutions for coexistence.

The question of how to coexist with wildlife in urban environments led to a research collaboration between me, an animal geographer at Queen’s University, and Coyote Watch Canada (CWC). Part of this has involved assessing nonlethal approaches to coyote management, including the use of aversion conditioning, also termed “humane hazing.” Aversion conditioning uses deterrents — such as gestures, voice or a noisemaker — during encounters, safely compelling wildlife to move away from humans.

Aversion conditioning

Coyote Watch Canada has been working to change the narrative and outcomes of human-coyote interactions. As a recent example, when concerned parents and teachers reported a coyote frequenting a schoolyard in London, Ont., in May 2018, an investigation revealed the coyote was drawn to the site by the abundant groundhog population.

After several deployments of aversion conditioning by members of the CWC Canid Response Team (a team of trained volunteers who implement on-the-ground responses such as investigation, rescue and conflict resolution) and trained school staff, the coyote stopped frequenting the schoolyard, and there have been no issues since.

This story has two key take-aways. First, coyote behaviour and motivation is often misinterpreted — a situation not helped by pervasive media sensationalism. For instance, although coyotes are often presented as a safety threat, data demonstrate that your chances of being bitten by a coyote are infinitesimal compared with the risks of living around other animals, especially domestic dogs, and that nearly all coyote bites are the result of human feeding leading to food-conditioned behaviour. Second, aversion conditioning is a safe and effective nonlethal tool to mitigate coyote concerns in urban areas.

Although aversion conditioning is increasingly advocated by many organizations and communities, key questions remain, including: How should it be implemented, and by whom? What factors influence its efficacy and outcomes? What results are we trying to achieve, and how can they be measured?

How people can deter coyotes from homes and properties.

Researchers and communities are assessing hazing as a tool for urban coyote management.

Members of CWC’s Canid Response Team had noted that many of the assumptions surrounding aversion conditioning and coyote behaviour lack scientific backing and did not align with their field experiences. In 2019, CWC organized a workshop on aversion conditioning, culminating in a set of best practices that were published in the journal Human Wildlife Interactions.

The need for best practices

A central question is how aversion conditioning is implemented. For instance, some communities and wildlife managers have suggested organizing members of the public into hazing crews. But these crews may not have sufficient training to assess circumstances and effectively deploy the methodology. This risks validating anti-coyote vigilantism.

Similarly, hazing programs that use dogs or projectiles, such as chalk balls, are questionable. Such strategies pose serious animal welfare concerns. And if aversion conditioning is premised on coyotes associating human encounters with a negative experience, being harassed by a dog or shot from a distance does not foster this learning.

Furthermore, aversion conditioning is often implemented and assessed as a lone conflict-mitigation measure, without managing human behaviours and food attractants. Instead, aversion conditioning should be implemented as part of a community-wide wildlife coexistence framework that focuses on prevention, investigation, enforcement (e.g. dog leashing and wildlife feeding bylaws) and education.

This involves dispelling myths, for instance letting people know that coyotes do not stalk people, but that they may shadow or escort dogs near a den to make sure they leave the area and are no longer a threat. In fact, off-leash dogs approaching den sites are one of the key sources of dog-coyote conflict. Some jurisdictions, such Presidio, Calif., and Guelph, Ont., have chosen to temporarily restrict dogs from coyote denning areas.

Finally, there is a commonly held assumption that if an animal has become “habituated” to humans (no longer afraid of them), the only option is lethal removal. But the behaviour of individual coyotes that are very persistent in accessing resources and willing to tolerate human proximity can still be effectively reshaped.

Along with managing anthropogenic food attractants, like intentional feeding, pet food, compost, fruit trees or bird feeders, our team has been successful in re-educating coyotes through aversion conditioning to mitigate conflict scenarios.

Paths to coexistence

Living alongside wildlife, especially larger animals, in cities is complex and multifaceted, as diverse public understandings, values and preferences intersect with animals. Mainstream wildlife management has for too long been steeped in a paradigm of instrumental use, human convenience and animal expendability. Communities increasingly value wild animals, preferring that they be managed in a nonlethal and compassionate fashion.

By recognizing humans and other species as cohabitants of a shared world, our work is part of a growing trend that focuses on paths to coexistence. Communities need tangible tools in working towards this end. Aversion conditioning is one such tool. It reshapes relationships based on misinformation, fear and too often animal death, into those of community empowerment, compassion and healthy human-wildlife boundaries.

Viewing animals like coyotes as legitimate and essential urban inhabitants compels us to consider our responsibilities to other species and how we can foster coexistence in the more-than-human city.

About the Author

Lauren E. Van Patter, PhD Candidate, Queen's University, Ontario

Lesley Sampson, the founding executive director of Coyote Watch Canada, co-authored this article.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You May Also Like




man and dog in front of giant sequoia trees in California
The Art of Constant Wonder: Thank you, Life, for this day
by Pierre Pradervand
One of the greatest secrets of life is to know how to constantly marvel at existence and at the…
Photo: Total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017.
Horoscope: Week of November 29 - December 5, 2021
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
young boy looking through binoculars
The Power of Five: Five Weeks, Five Months, Five Years
by Shelly Tygielski
At times, we have to let go of what is to make room for what will be. Of course, the very idea of…
man eating fast food
It's Not About the Food: Overeating, Addictions, and Emotions
by Jude Bijou
What if I told you a new diet called the "It's Not About the Food" is gaining popularity and…
woman dancing in the middle of an empty highway with a city skyline in the background
Having the Courage to Be True to Ourselves
by Marie T. Russell,
Each one of us is a unique individual, and thus it seems to follow that each one of us has a…
Lunar eclipse through colored clouds. Howard Cohen, November 18, 2021, Gainesville, FL
Horoscope: Week of November 22 - 28, 2021
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
a young boy climbing to the top of a rock formation
A Positive Way Forward Is Possible Even in the Darkest Times
by Elliott Noble-Holt
Falling into a rut doesn’t mean we have to stay there. Even when it can seem like an insurmountable…
woman wearing a crown of flowers staring with an unwavering gaze
Hold That Unwavering Gaze! Lunar and Solar Eclipses November-December 2021
by Sarah Varcas
This second and final eclipse season of 2021 began on 5th November and features a lunar eclipse in…
Meditation Is Only The First Step
Meditation Is Only The First Step
by Dr. Miguel Farias and Dr. Catherine Wikholm
A Benedictine monk had used almost exactly the same words as a Hindu ascetic – Swami Ambikananda…
How To Use The Three Bridges to Create Joy, Love, and Peace
How To Use The Three Bridges to Create Joy, Love, and Peace
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
Sometimes it's obvious what emotion a person is dealing with. Other times it's not. With just a…
The Holistic Nature of Reflexology: It's Not Just About The Feet
The Holistic Nature of Reflexology: It's Not Just About The Feet
by Ewald Kliegel
One of the most fascinating aspects of the human body is the fact that there are so many…

Selected for InnerSelf Magazine


How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
How Living On The Coast Is Linked To Poor Health
by Jackie Cassell, Professor of Primary Care Epidemiology, Honorary Consultant in Public Health, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
The precarious economies of many traditional seaside towns have declined still further since the…
The Most Common Issues for Earth Angels: Love, Fear, and Trust
The Most Common Issues for Earth Angels: Love, Fear, and Trust
by Sonja Grace
As you experience being an earth angel, you will discover that the path of service is riddled with…
How Can I Know What's Best For Me?
How Can I Know What's Best For Me?
by Barbara Berger
One of the biggest things I've discovered working with clients everyday is how extremely difficult…
What Men’s Roles In 1970s Anti-sexism Campaigns Can Teach Us About Consent
What Men’s Roles In 1970s Anti-sexism Campaigns Can Teach Us About Consent
by Lucy Delap, University of Cambridge
The 1970s anti-sexist men’s movement had an infrastructure of magazines, conferences, men’s centres…
Honesty: The Only Hope for New Relationships
Honesty: The Only Hope for New Relationships
by Susan Campbell, Ph.D.
According to most of the singles I have met in my travels, the typical dating situation is fraught…
An Astrologer introduces the Nine Dangers of Astrology
An Astrologer introduces the Nine Dangers of Astrology
by Tracy Marks
Astrology is a powerful art, capable of enhancing our lives by enabling us to understand our own…
Giving Up All Hope Could Be Beneficial For You
Giving Up All Hope Could Be Beneficial For You
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
If you're waiting for a change and frustrated it's not happening, maybe it would be beneficial to…
Chakra Healing Therapy: Dancing toward the Inner Champion
Chakra Healing Therapy: Dancing toward the Inner Champion
by Glen Park
Flamenco dancing is a delight to watch. A good flamenco dancer exudes an exuberant self-confidence…

New Attitudes - New Possibilities | | | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.