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Tri-County Vanguard - 2021-11-24

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Coyote encroachment concerning some residents in South West Nova

OPINION

CARLA ALLEN TRI-COUNTY VANGUARD carla.allen@saltwire.com

She's come face-to-face with a large coyote on her property five times since August. Now Becky Cottreau is doing something about it. So far, she figures the predator has snatched two full-grown turkey hens with nests full of eggs, countless chickens and guinea fowl over the summer from her hobby farm – Brenton Hollow – on the Brazil Lake Road. “I've had a large coyote 'haunting' the edges of my lawn since early spring,” she says. She's encountered it in full daylight, at all times of the day and each time she was following either the alarm calls of the birds, or the barking of her dogs. “It has little to no fear of me, and on more than one occasion I've come around the corner of the barn and accidentally found myself within 15 feet of it, calmly sitting there watching me until we make eye contact," she says. "Then it turns and with a step or two, it disappears back into the woods. It puts the hair up on the back of my neck to see a wild animal, as large as a medium-sized German Shepard, with no apparent fear of people,” she says. She worries for the safety of her young grandson and is careful to always be beside him when he's outside. They've stopped taking walks on a road through the woods for fear of the coyotes. “I have great respect for wildlife and their right to exist, but this one has crossed the line," says Cottreau. "As much as it grieves me, I've enlisted the aid of trapper Corey Hurlburt who will hopefully be able to remove it as soon as the season opens." Several years ago, Mitchell Rodgerson was called to Cape Forchu, Yarmouth County, to trap coyotes after a dog was attacked by one. Rodgerson, who has been trapping for five years, says coyotes are extremely smart. “They're one of the smartest animals, if not the smartest, I trap.” He says now he's receiving calls from Cape Forchu again. In addition, eyewitness accounts have been reported around Sweeney Lane as well as on Outer False Harbour beach and the eastern cape. There's also coyote scat (feces) along the roadside, with berries and periwinkle shells in it. Deer collisions on the Cape Forchu road were a common occurrence several years ago, now sightings are few and Trapper Mitchell Rodgerson with one of the coyotes he trapped. Rodgerson says he hasn't seen any sign of rabbits on the West Cape. “The problem is the terrain over there. Once you go up into Markland Estates, along the edges of that, there's a lot of deadfall over there. If a deer's trying to run through there, it's easy to break a leg or get cut off. There's nowhere left to hide,” says Rodgerson, who is looking forward to snaring coyotes when the season starts Nov. 26. He traps everywhere, but 75 per cent of his work comes from people calling him – beavers jamming up culverts, coyotes too close to homes, or foxes and bobcats wreaking havoc. “The number of phone calls I've received for every animal this summer has been incredible,” he says. He attributes this to the demise of a major fur buyer in North America two years ago. Prices also dropped because of COVID. For example, three or four years ago, a coyote pelt would sell for $100. Rodgerson now averages $7/pelt. “It's a huge problem across the province, and there are not as many trappers as there used to be. I do it because I enjoy it and like to help people out,” he says. Besides, it's starting to get personal. His wife was wheeling two children in a stroller on the Peth Road in Arcadia, Yarmouth County, at 11 a.m. recently, and a coyote was walking along the edge of the road near them. Then, a week later, he received a call from a woman at Pubnico Lake who has a hobby farm. Coyotes were pooping on her deck. Rodgerson wants people to know that even though there are more sightings of coyotes, there have been very few attacks. Although people are concerned about them, for the most part a whistle, spreading your arms to make yourself seem bigger, or carrying a stick are recommended actions for coyote encounters. “That seems to scare them away,” says Rodgerson. "I don't want to put the fear into people that coyotes are bad because they are part of our ecosystem, and they do serve a purpose," he says. "It just seems the population is getting a little bit out of hand. The biggest threat is for pets and livestock.” Provincial wildlife technician Kim Huskins says modern society has created the ideal habitat for coyotes. “A lot of people say they're a deep woods animal, but they were originally a prairie animal and as North America expanded and we cut forests for our development and our agriculture areas. We created more prime habitat for a coyote,” she says. “They prefer open areas with edge habitat. They hunt meadow voles and other rodents in those open areas." The landscape at Cape Forchu leaves the coyotes quite open to observation at times as they travel the isthmus between the two islands. "Provincial statistics show the coyote population in the Cape Forchu area to be similar to the rest of the province. It's stable and holding its own,” says Huskins. Depending on the trapper, the population may or may not be impacted. “Trapping is a science and an art all in one,” she adds. The best thing is for coyotes to stay afraid of people and to not become habituated. “It truly is killing things with kindness when you feed wild animals. When people put food products out, it's likely attracting up to a dozen species: birds, squirrels, rats and coyotes eating the rats," Huskins says. “When we open up the land and add our compost, freerange our chickens and do all the things that potentially can attract animals. It's not always direct feeding, it's indirect feeding that we really want to limit."

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