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Local mom shares cautionary tale after coyote encounter in Squamish park

Coyote's proximity to toddler prompts parent to remind others to keep littles within reach outdoors.
A coyote near a residential area (not the animal involved in this incident).

A local mom is warning other parents in Squamish to keep their toddlers within reach if playing outdoors, following her family’s scary coyote encounter. 

On Aug. 13, at about 10:30 a.m., Min FitzGerald had just started breastfeeding her four-month-old son while her 2.5-year-old daughter was playing nearby when she spotted a coyote looking ready to pounce on the toddler.

"She was just running around with a doll and, you know, like when you get a spidey sense? It just got really quiet ... I looked, and my daughter was probably within two to three metres of me. And then the coyote was two to three metres from her. It was like when dogs, or animals, are trying to ... pounce on something. It was lurched. I just kind of panicked."

Her daughter is familiar and comfortable around dogs and had her little hand out toward the animal, so FitzGerald was worried the girl would run toward it.

The coyote looked to be young but was larger than the girl, who is quite petite, FitzGerald said.

While still holding her son, she jumped to her feet and started stomping and yelling at the animal.

"It just looked at me. It didn't really back up," she recalled. 

A neighbour whose home overlooks the park saw what was happening and started screaming and clapping until the animal did finally retreat.

FitzGerald posted on Facebook about the incident and is speaking out publicly with the message for other Squamish parents to make sure they are always with young kids when they are outside. 

"And that they're actually within a grabbable range from you,” she said. “Especially any time around, dawn or dusk," she said, noting the times when coyotes are often more active.

"It won't take that long for them to really do a lot of damage to your child," she said. 

FitzGerald called the Conservation Officer Service and reported the incident. 

Squamish is wildlife territory

Conservation officer Kent Popjes told The Squamish Chief that officers did attend the park to investigate, but there was no sign of the coyote then. They also did not find a den in the area, he said. 

The behaviour of the coyote in this incident makes it seem as if the animal had been previously food conditioned, perhaps by people feeding it intentionally, Popjes said.

He noted that once fed by people, the animal then becomes harder to deter.

It is an offence under BC's Wildlife Act to feed bears, cougars, coyotes or wolves, all of which are common wildlife in Squamish. 

Popjes said, fortunately, there have not been reports of locals being bitten by a coyote to date.

If there is a coyote in the vicinity, people should become bold and aggressive to show dominance, he said. 

Don't run away, as that is seen as prey behaviour. 

Make yourself big and yell and throw something like a stick in its direction, if need be, he said, adding that obviously folks shouldn't try to intentionally hurt an animal.

While this encounter was in the Garibaldi Highlands, there are wild animals throughout Squamish, Popjes stressed.

He added that there's no need for parents to be terrified of Squamish’s wildlife, but rather be aware and vigilant and know what to do if there is an encounter. 

Popjes said COS doesn't have the resources to monitor social media for posts about interactions, so it is important to do as FitzGerald did and call to report any human-wildlife conflict to the RAPP hotline: 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network. 

If the situation is not an emergency, report the incident online.

Find out more about coyotes on the WildSafeBC webpage.

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