The operators of Agriculture Canada’s Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa have discovered that if you’ve got a coyote problem in the middle of the city, live trapping won’t earn any brownie points with environmentalists — and it won’t get rid of the problem, either.
Earlier this spring, staff at the farm hired a company “to explore humane options for the capture and relocation of coyotes” after fielding concerns from the public about animals spotted on the property, department spokesperson Patrick Girard said in an email.
However, the initiative soon earned criticism from the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre and the Animal Protection Party, which is based in Toronto.
Donna DuBreuil, president of the Carleton Wildlife Centre, called the approach “silly.” She said removing animals will only create opportunity for others to move in. And besides, she added, live trapping a healthy adult coyote is nearly impossible to do.
Even if trapping were successful, “where are you going to relocate it to — are you going to take it from one natural area to another?”
The historic 1,000 acre farm near the city’s centre is home to a petting zoo and a small demonstration dairy herd.
DuBreuil said the decision to trap coyotes isn’t driven by livestock predation concerns. Instead, she said the issue involves providing the optics that the farm is responding to residents’ fears for their pets and children.
The farm is a popular destination for local dog walkers.
“People need to put it in perspective, at least in the context of not having irrational fear and learning to coexist” with the animals, she said.
“The city of Ottawa, probably like most large cities, has probably upwards of 300 to 400 dog bites every year. Coyotes? None.”
Anita O’Brien, on-farm program lead with the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency, said the province introduced regulations last year to allow the use of a live snare that will catch but not choke an animal.
However, O’Brien doubted such snares would successfully catch a mature coyote, although they might nab a junior animal.
“(Moreover), when you’re having problems, you don’t release a coyote you’ve caught because they’re part of the problem because of coyotes being so territorial.”
Ontario Agriculture recommends trapping or killing problem coyotes as a last resort. Best practices include removing deadstock and items such as spilled grain that might attract the smaller rodents that coyotes eat, adding guard animals, establishing appropriate fencing and bringing animals into the barn at night.
However, O’Brien, who raises sheep near Gananoque, Ont., said a farmer can use best management practices but still experience predation on the farm. That’s because a coyote’s territory is much larger than a farm, and “what happens on all of the farms in a coyote’s territory impacts what happens on my farm.”
As well, coyotes are clever and adapt to new conditions.
O’Brien, a former Ontario Agriculture sheep specialist, said that when the ministry first started promoting livestock guardian dogs in the 1980s, “they worked great.” The same when electric fencing was introduced. However, coyotes soon found ways around them.
Back in Ottawa, attempts to capture the wily coyotes failed.
“At this time there are no plans to capture, or relocate, the coyotes,” Girard wrote in early May.
“(Instead), the department will increase public and employee awareness of the presence of coyotes at the CEF.”
It will also continue to review “available information and practices used in other jurisdictions to guide its approach.”