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Urban coyotes (Canis latrans Say, 1823) in the Lower Mainland, British Columbia: public perceptions and education Webber, Kristine

Abstract

Increasing complaints to wildlife agencies and negative media reports about urban coyotes (Canis latrans) suggest a negative attitude toward coyotes. I surveyed the public in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) for their opinion of urban wildlife and management. Based on these surveys, an educational approach was developed to address public concerns and misconceptions about urban coyotes. Two public surveys were conducted. The first surveyed attitudes and concerns about urban wildlife through local GVRD community centers. The second focused specifically on urban coyotes, and was directed at 3 sub-populations: the general GVRD population, veterinary clients, and naturalists. The surveys showed that the public has a broad concept of urban wildlife, but has concerns about some urban wildlife including coyotes. Negative attitudes toward coyotes portrayed in the media, were not supported by survey results. The attitude of the general GVRD public toward coyotes was mainly neutral (52%), whereas veterinary clients (51%) and naturalists (62%) felt positively toward coyotes. Non-lethal control methods, such as education, were preferred for addressing problem urban wildlife. Confusion about agencies responsible for dealing with urban wildlife concerns was identified. Eleven coyotes that I examined from the GVRD were similar in weight, morphology and diet to those in other western coyote populations. GVRD coyotes demonstrated the typically diverse diet of an opportunistic carnivore. Preying (or scavenging) of pets was confirmed by the presence of cat and dog hair in scats. None of the coyotes were infected with either heartworm or rabies. Distribution of coyote sightings reported by the public showed most were seen during the day (56%), and individual coyotes (77%) were most often seen. Half the sighting were in parks, golf courses or GVRD greenspaces. Based on survey results, I concluded that the most effective and publicly acceptable approach to addressing concerns about urban coyotes is though public education. Education materials were produced that address misconceptions identified in the surveys, and provide pet owners with strategies to keep their pets safe. Clarification of the responsibilities of the different agencies that deal with urban wildlife would be useful for the public in their search for information or assistance.

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