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'They're out there': Winnipeg pet owners on alert as coyote sightings increase

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Winnipeg pet owners are tightening their leashes when out with their animals, with many saying they see and hear more coyotes in their neighbourhoods.

“A few days ago, I was just sitting on my couch and I saw a small coyote just kind of trotting its way down the street here,” said Adrian Honish. “And then a few minutes later it came back the other way.”

Honish owns a puppy named Adley and said pet owners need to be aware of the wild animals lurking in the community.

“I don’t want to get rid of coyotes in any way, obviously,” Honish said. “But I think you just have to be aware that they’re out there.”

Reports of coyote sightings and encounters are on the rise across the province, according to recent data from Manitoba Conservation.

In 2023, 677 sightings were reported to Manitoba Conservation – more than double the number of interactions reported in 2022.

But experts say that’s not necessarily cause for concern, and reported encounters also include sightings.

“It’s not that numbers are way up, it’s that folks are actually reporting it,” said FortWhyte Alive group services manager Barret Miller.

But Miller said people don’t need to report every sighting.

Miller also said the reason why the animals are seen in the city so much has to do with our schedules – with coyote feeding times at dusk and dawn coinciding with rush hour.

“We’re active when they’re active,” he said. “And they are really active because it’s mating season.”

Miller attributes a growth in urban coyotes to the conditions set by humans.

“It’s a lot more inviting,” Miller said. “You're not going through a big field that may only have one or two mice in it, you're now in a series of yards that are all full of food. So it's easier for coyotes to get in than ever.”

The easy access has pet owners like Honish on alert.

"I don't want (Adley) to go and try and play with a coyote. She's a puppy, and she will. So we just keep an eye on her when we let her out to pee,” he said.

For those who are worried they will cross paths with a coyote, Miller said they typically keep their distance. However, in any uncomfortable wildlife encounter, he offered this advice: “Make yourself as large as possible. Speak to it in a nice, deep bassy voice. Back off -- you give it lots of room to decide how the encounter plays out. You don't make yourself small, you don't run and squeal, because that's what prey does.”

To prevent the canines from coming too close in the first place, Miller reminds people not to feed wild animals.

“Do not hand-feed, do not allow dog food to be left out or garbage to be left out that might attract them,” Miller said.

To report a coyote sighting or encounter anywhere in the province, you can call conservation officers at: (204) 945-5221. 

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