Oct. 21, 2019

Living with wildlife: Your role in co-existence

With the potential for coyote activity on campus to increase this fall, be wildlife smart
Coyote fall dispersal season
Coyote activity increases in the fall. Ross Michaels, Flickr

Coyotes have lived in and around the University of Calgary campus for decades. Coyote movement and reported coyote sightings increase in the fall, which is dispersal season. During dispersal, some coyotes in a pack may leave their family to set up in a new territory.

Dr. Shelley Alexander, PhD, UCalgary geography professor, explains: “Often the increase in sightings during the fall are misunderstood to reflect an increase in coyote numbers, when it is actually movement. Importantly, during dispersal, coyotes may be alone and away from their family for the first time and will take advantage of easily accessible food and shelter, and they also may be more fearful.” These conditions can lead to unsafe interactions between coyotes, humans and pets.

The university, with assistance from Alexander, is in the process of developing a program to monitor coyote activity and minimize risk to the campus community and wildlife. The goal is to align UCalgary’s approach to wildlife with the City of Calgary’s approach to urban wildlife, which focuses on co-existence and involves:

  • monitoring wildlife activity
  • reducing attractants, such as food sources
  • education

Coyotes often live in green spaces in the city and will seek food in surrounding residential areas. Alexander says, “Coyotes choose a home range that extends across a distance up to 10 square kilometres. They may use one area as a place to gather food, while using a completely different area for shelter. This relates to available resources.” It is not uncommon for coyotes to choose a home territory that spans across neighbourhoods.

Learning to co-exist with wildlife is key to minimizing conflict. Human sources of food such as garbage, bird seed, dog food, and food left out for rabbits and other small animals, will attract coyotes and other wildlife species.

“Attractants are known to be one root cause of human conflict with wildlife, especially coyotes,” says Alexander. “Proper garbage handling and ensuring wildlife are not fed by humans are critical. We want coyotes to keep moving through and away from us.

“Most coyote encounters are positive. Despite tens of thousands of encounters, on average there are three coyote attacks (bites/scratches) to people per year across Canada. However, coyotes can pose a safety risk on campus if they become food conditioned, or if people are unsure how to respond to them.” 

The safety of the campus community and visitors is a priority for the university. Follow these tips to co-exist safely with coyotes:

Help make it safe. Be wildlife smart.

  • Don’t feed animals.
  • Give wildlife room to move through and move on.
  • Monitor small children and keep pets on a leash.
  • If a coyote seems aggressive or approaches you:
    • Do NOT run or turn away.
    • Scare the animal by shouting and waving your arms overhead.
    • Maintain eye contact and back away slowly.
    • Call 9-1-1 if your safety or the safety of others is threatened.
    • Call Campus Security at 403-220-5333 if you would like to report encounters that occurred on UCalgary grounds.

Learn more about co-existing with coyotes from sites such as the City of Calgary and Coyote Watch Canada.

Everyone on campus can submit a service request for facility issues. Report coyote activity on campus online through ARCHIBUS, call the Customer Care Centre at 403-220-7555 or email myfacilities@ucalgary.ca.