As the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNROD) has announced their plan to kill coyotes in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, Coyote Watch Canada and The Fur-Bearers are left feeling anger, sadness and frustration that opportunities to prevent this outcome were ignored or missed by the governing bodies involved.
In January 2021, The Fur-Bearers wrote a letter to the Vancouver Parks Board commissioners, identifying numerous problems that may have contributed to coyotes approaching and biting people in the urban forest the month prior. A lack of signage regarding the presence of coyotes and how to behave around them; a lack of signage warning that feeding wildlife is against provincial law and dangerous to everyone; open access garbage containers that attract animals who attract coyotes and other wildlife; and a total lack of enforcement of feeding rules.
We did not receive a response to this letter, or subsequent requests for communication or meetings. Since then, renowned experts on coyote behaviour have offered similar insights and opportunities for intervention and mitigation of the human activities that lead to a change in wildlife behaviour. Many of these were mentioned in the media. But, as encounters between coyotes and people went on, no meaningful changes at the park were notable.
In a mid-August visit, The Fur-Bearers Executive Director Lesley Fox noted numerous people bypassing haphazardly erected trail barriers that contained no information; a lack of signage about the coyotes at the entrance to the park; and, numerous people leaving large quantities (full grocery bags) of high calorie cat food for wildlife. These instances were reported to the BC Conservation Officer Service, who are now investigating.
The mother of a child who was bitten by a coyote this week noted that she had no idea there was an issue and expressed guilt for this. But she should not feel guilty: a search on September 1, 2021, showed no information on the Vancouver Parks Board, City of Vancouver, and their official Stanley Park pages about trail closures or coyote behaviour; as noted, there was no information presented to visitors at the main entrance of the park regarding this; and, only the BC Conservation Officer Service regularly posted advisories – not those agencies or bureaucracies actually responsible for wildlife or Stanley Park.
It isn’t only the lack of communications that has allowed the Stanley Park situation to grow, but the lack of enforcement. Earlier this year, The Fur-Bearers learned through a freedom of information request that there had been no tickets issued related to wildlife feeding in three years at Stanley Park – a complete lack of enforcement of what is known to be a precursor activity to negative encounters with wildlife. In the ensuing months, Coyote Watch Canada and The Fur-Bearers (and others) called for such enforcement. We are yet to see evidence of any enforcement of wildlife feeding and park/trail closures.
Seven coyotes were killed already by the Conservation Officer Service in response to these incidents. More killings are to come. Yet, the primary issue that all experts agree on has been ignored: how humans are using the park, and a lack of enforcement of the rules in place to prevent exactly this from occurring. Why were the pleas of so many ignored? Why did the Parks Board not act sooner by following the advice given to them by advocates and experts? Why was communication of trail closures and the behaviour of the coyotes not made a priority to protect both visitors and the wildlife? Why was enforcement of trail closures, park closures and feeding regulations never fully conducted?
We will do our best to find answers to these questions and call out those who failed in their duties to the coyotes, the visitors of Stanley Park, and the Park itself.
Coyote Watch Canada and The Fur-Bearers strongly encourage that anyone who is at Stanley Park and witnesses feeding or baiting of wildlife by photographers and visitors to contact the BC COS RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.
Thumbnail image of a coyote in Stanley Park circa 2017. Photo by Devonyu / Getty Images