A Vancouver man says he's worried about coyote behaviour in Stanley Park following an unusual encounter with one of the canines.
Colin Lamb has been running between four and six days a week in the park. While he's spotted coyotes numerous times, he hasn't faced any concerning behaviour. Typically, he holds eye contact with them and continues running forward.
But an incident on May 3 made the West End resident concerned that people are still feeding the canines.
Normally, the avid runner will get within 50 to 100 feet of the animals before they run into the bush and disappear. This time, however, the bold creature stayed on the trail.
"Last spring I saw a woman sitting on a small grass area beside the trail facing towards the bushes, and a man who I assumed was her boyfriend was standing on the trail like he was keeping watch. This is an area where I regularly see coyotes. They looked suspicious to me and I thought maybe they were feeding coyotes," he tells Vancouver Is Awesome.
"So when I saw the behaviour of this one — not moving off the trail or showing any concern about a runner coming — I wondered if it was used to being fed."
After squatting down and tossing a few pebbles, the curious canine approached Lamb and "looked exactly like a dog that was expecting a treat," showing no aggression but a "high level of comfort and curiosity."
While he attempted to scare it away several times, the coyote would only run about 20 feet away and then "begin what looked like playing behaviour," he adds.
"I'm quite worried about this guy's future if this is how it's behaving. It's not aggressive, but I could see it maybe getting to the point of nipping at someone to initiate play.
"I suspect they're being fed still and I hope it stops."
Lamb shared a video of his encounter in Stanley Park on Twitter.
Ran into this guy in Stanley Park during a run on May 3, 2022. Very playful and curious. I hope people aren't feeding them. #stanleypark @StanleyParkEco @ParkBoard #Vancouver pic.twitter.com/JCwDLAb0M0— Stanley Park Runner (@park_runner1) May 5, 2022
Trails in Stanley Park are closed for safety
In an emailed statement, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation stated that the actions demonstrated in this video do not support maintaining a strict boundary between humans and coyotes.
"By making yourself small and enticing the coyote towards you, you are reinforcing a message that it is ok for the coyote to get this close to humans and that there is nothing to fear. Our guidance when a coyote is encountered remains the same: stand tall, yell and make yourself big. The goal is to maintain a strong boundary and demonstrate that coyotes should not feel comfortable approaching humans.
"As you can see in the video, when the person filming stands up, the coyote runs away. This is exactly the behaviour we would hope to see. Conversely, when wild animals lose their fear of people, everyone’s safety is at risk."
Springtime is when litters of cute coyote pups are born, and also when parent coyotes start behaving more aggressively to protect their babies. This can look like "escorting" people and pets away from dens and acting more defensively if they perceive a threat.
Trails in the park will be closed during denning season. On May 4, the Park Board indicated it would be closing Reservoir Trail and parts of Eagle and Hanson trails as a precaution.
The Park Board approved two new fines in September 2021 for feeding wild animals in the city's parks: one for directly feeding wild animals and one for leaving attractants out to draw wild animals out.
Feeding wildlife, coyotes included, can cost a fine of $500.
With files from Maria Diment