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Ban on dogs in place to protect denning coyotes

A coyote family, with at least seven pups, has denned in a culvert at the Banff Centre
20190427 Canmore Coyote 0005
A coyote runs through the forest. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF – A bold coyote parent protecting its pups has led to a ban on pet dogs in an area at the Banff Centre.

The restricted activity order, which was put in place after a coyote followed pet dogs at close range several times last week, prevents people walking dogs in an area in proximity to St. Julien Way and Tunnel Mountain Drive.

A coyote family, with at least seven pups, has been using a culvert as a den site for the last few weeks.

“It’s not just about the threat to people’s safety and their pets, but also it’s a really sensitive time for these animals,” said Dan Rafla, a human-wildlife conflict specialist for Banff National Park.

“Let’s give them a wide berth from dogs that seem to stress them out most.”

As birthing time nears and once pups are born, coyote parents are more protective of denning areas and more active in hunting for food. Their activity levels and protectiveness rises even more as the pups begin to wander out of the den. 

While coyotes are rarely interested in people, they may view larger dogs as competition or a threat, and smaller dogs may be seen more as potential prey for them. 

On May 26, Parks Canada issued a formal warning in an area near the Old Banff Cemetery, including the Ken Madsen Path and other nearby trails due to reports of an aggressive coyote.

At that time, a coyote had been approaching people walking their dogs. In one case, the coyote nipped at a dog and in another sniffed a dog from behind. The coyote’s behaviour led Parks Canada to suspect there was a den site nearby.

Then last week, there was a series of two to three further incidents in which coyotes were displaying similar behaviour by following dogs at close range in an area at the Banff Centre. As far as Parks Canada knows, the dogs were on leash.

Rafla said Banff Centre security also reported seeing coyotes, and in turn, that led to the discovery of the den in a culvert.

“Realizing there were pups in the area, presumably the adult coyote was just demonstrating defensive behaviour in escorting those dogs away,” said Rafla.

“The common denominator of all the reports we’ve had was it wasn’t towards people, it was people walking dogs and the interest was towards the dogs.”

Rafla said coyotes can be very protective this time of year, noting they have been known to try to chase off larger predators to keep them away from the den site.

Just this spring, he said one coyote took a run at grizzly bear 122 – also known as the Boss – in the Vermilion Lakes area.

“When 122 was travelling by through the forest, the coyote ran up to him and was nipping at his back end,” said Rafla.

“That’s bold for a coyote. It wouldn’t do that at any other time of the year. With that behaviour, it’s likely protecting something, likely a den.”

In time, it’s likely the coyotes will move as the pups become more mobile.

The pups are quite agile and make smaller forays, but Rafla said they’re not big enough yet to be out on their own hunting.

“We’ll continue to monitor and adjust our strategy accordingly,” he said. 

“What we wouldn’t do is go in there and relocate those animals. It’s quite a sensitive time of year.”

Parks Canada asks people keep dogs on a leash at all times, make sure garbage and food is properly and securely stored and report all coyote sighings within the townsite to 403-762-1470.

“We ask people to give any wildlife a wide berth, especially at this time of year when there are pups, and kits and cubs,” Rafla said.

Anyone caught violating the restricted activity order on pet dogs at the Banff Centre could be charged and face a fine of up to $25,000 in court.

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