Several cities in Ontario are urging individuals to report coyote dens near residential areas and remain wary of the animals as mating season for the canines is underway.
Burlington, Ont., west of Toronto, said residents should report to the city all sightings and dens that occur near homes.
Nick Anastasopoulos, director of the city's building and bylaw department, said coyotes are particularly protective during mating season.
"They're going to protect their pups," he said. "If you're walking larger dogs, they just (see) them as threats."
The city recorded seven unprovoked coyote attacks on humans last year. It launched a task force to address the attacks and has repeatedly reminded residents to not feed the animals.
"After we created a task force and we had the animal services team out there proactively dealing with the situation, we saw a drastic decline in the aggressive attacks against residents," Anastasopoulos said.
Mississauga, Ont., is also telling residents to not feed animals and report any coyote sightings.
"The vast majority of the time, any of these actual incidents or any actual reported behaviours are a result of wildlife feeding," said Jay Smith, manager of animal services. "So that's our greatest challenge, is to address that."
Mississauga has had one reported conflict witha coyote so far this year and had four reported last year, down from 21 in 2021.
The number of reported sightings of coyotes in Mississauga has been on the rise, with 1,292 in 2021 and 1,452 in 2022. Smith said residents can report encounters and sightings on Mississauga's online interactive map.
In Toronto, the city said coyotes may be more active and visible as they search for a potential mate. It said it received 252 reports of coyote sightings this January.
"If you see a coyote, please keep a safe distance and make sure your dog is always on a leash," it wrote in a recent statement.
Colleen St. Clair, a biological sciences professor at the University of Alberta, said coyotes, especially males, are quite mobile at this time of year as they search for mates.
"They're moving around a lot more, but it's also a time of the year when coyotes start to act quite territorial towards each other," she said.
St. Clair, who created the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project in 2009 to study how coyotes live in urban areas, said the mating season runs from about mid-January to mid-March.
"What they'll be doing on the heels of the breeding season is looking for den sites to raise their pups, and they want really secure sites," she said.
St. Clair said while urban expansion has encroached on some coyote habitats, the adaptable canines can also move into metropolitan areas to keep safe.
"Coyotes are hunted outside of urban areas pretty much everywhere throughout North America very aggressively," she said. "The animals move into towns and cities where they feel "generally" safer, she said, which has increased the instances of people feeding them.
"That's the fastest way to cause lethal management of coyotes because they become very aggressive when they're fed by people," she said.
St. Clair warned urban residents to avoid feeding the animals by locking up compost, placing bird feeders in inaccessible areas and keeping yards clean of things like fallen fruit and bird seed.
Those who do encounter coyotes should act hostile by doing things like making loud noises and throwing objects like tennis balls, while not turning their back from the animals or running away, she said.
"If (people) have the opportunity and feel confident doing so, they could be walking their dog armed with something to throw," St. Clair said. "Or they could be ready to yell at a coyote and run towards it acting aggressively."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2023.
Jessica Smith, The Canadian Press