Lucy had an unpleasant encounter with the neighbourhood coyote population. Photo courtesy Bob Brehl

Bob Brehl: Coyote attack a sign of upside down world

By 
  • April 3, 2018

Do you ever wonder if sometimes the world is upside down?

One time, I went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin and found it was a beautiful old Protestant basilica. A few days later, I went into St. Patrick’s Church in Belfast and found it was a lovely Catholic church. It has always struck me strange that the cathedral in Catholic-dominated Ireland is Protestant, and the church in Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland is Catholic.

The other day, I had another world-is-upside-down moment, but much closer to home.

Like many cities in the Greater Toronto Area, our neighbourhood is now teeming with coyotes and coywolves, a hybrid breed that amazes scientists by their adaptability to live right alongside us in urban areas but just out of view. They hunt from dusk to dawn.

Recently, I let our dog out into our fenced backyard at 8 p.m. and within a minute I heard her bark strangely. Immediately, I went to investigate and saw two creatures jump back over the fence and run off.

But not before one of them took a bite out of Lucy’s backend. Had I not immediately appeared, they were going to take her down and devour her. Our veterinarian told us she was surprised they didn’t do more damage because they’re usually “viciously fast” in their attacks.

Lucy is not a small dog, like most pets that are swarmed (and often killed) by coyotes and coywolves. She is a 50-pound standard poodle, but she’s a senior at age 15. Her frailty was likely apparent to them, the vet said.

Though these predators are not indigenous to our area, they’re here now. They mostly feed on geese, rabbits and other urban wildlife. Reports of them killing pets in the GTA date back 15 years, but only a handful each year are reported in media.

Their existence here — or the fact politicians have done nothing to control their population — is not the “world-is-upside-down” point.

On Facebook, we have a “neighbourhood page” restricted to residents around here who share local information on all sorts of things, including coywolf sightings. After the attack, I posted details warning neighbours, saying these predators were large enough to easily hurdle our fence. 

Within hours, there were five dozen comments, mostly of concern and appreciation for the warning. But two comments really struck me that the world is upside down sometimes.

I found out one of my neighbours received a ticket from Mississauga Animal Services because her cat killed mice and chipmunks. At first, I thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t.

On the one hand, nothing is done to control the coyote and coywolf population and prevent them from jumping fences and lying in wait in our backyards to ambush. On the other hand, Animal Services responds to a call from an annoying busy-body neighbour and gives a ticket to another neighbour for her cat killing mice and chipmunks. 

“How does that make sense?” a neighbour posted. “Your domestic pet is not allowed to harm wildlife anywhere but wildlife can harm your domestic pet anywhere they choose.”

The world is upside down sometimes.

A second comment also struck me because this woman pretty much blamed me for the attack and accused me of negligence for letting my dog out unsupervised.

“The Circle of Life — looks like our local Eco-system is healthy,” the woman wrote. “Learning to live with our local wild-life — sometimes we’ve got to make adjustments.”

I don’t know this neighbour and I wasn’t looking for empathy or sympathy. I replied we have very different definitions of the circle of life when there are so many predators in an urban area that they hop over fences and wait in backyards for domestic pets they can eat.

“Perhaps your senior dog should not be left unattended,” she shot back. “Your dog is prey. I certainly would not leave my child or pet unsupervised knowing that coyotes live in our neighbourhood.”

I no longer let Lucy out on her own, even for a minute, at night. And when I walk her, I carry a stick and flashlight.

But when a predator not even indigenous to the area is so plentiful that it waits in our backyards for kills, the world seems upside down.

As another neighbour wrote me after seeing the circle of life comment: “We live in such a politically correct world these days that if people like her had their way, they’d turn our neighbourhood into a coyote conservation sanctuary.”

I’m not suggesting the coyotes be wiped out, but surely there’s a middle ground between that and having our neighbourhood overrun with them.

(Brehl is a writer and author of several books.)

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