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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Coyote goes downriver : an historical geography of coyote migration into the Fraser Valley Ford, Lillian

Abstract

This thesis considers the spread of coyotes into the Fraser Valley from an historical/geographical perspective. Using the models of Coyote and Canis latrans, it follows coyotes from their traditional range in Nlha7kapmx territory into the Fraser Valley and eventually the city of Vancouver. In doing so, it examines both changing landscapes and changing perceptions of predators over the past 125 years. In much the same way as it has distinguished "wilderness" from "civilization," the settler imagination has separated the paths, patterns, and places of wildlife from those of human settlement. This thesis introduces an animal who has persistently challenged those boundaries. In Nlha7kapmx traditions, Coyote is a transgressive character, a clever opportunist, a powerful transformer, and an irrepressible trickster who may be killed repeatedly but always revives. These same qualities can be seen in scientific descriptions of coyotes. The ways of coyotes — their adaptability, intelligence, and social geography ~ have helped them withstand persecution and inhabit new environments. Coyotes appear in places we do not expect, and, as predators, in places that we actively defend from their presence. Coyotes were first reported in the Fraser Valley in 1892, following the completion of the railway and the commencement of agricultural settlement. Today they are commonly seen throughout the region. Their presence has been the object of successive campaigns to exterminate, control, and, eventually, co-exist with them. From the bounty system to widespread poisoning and the designation of "problem animals," these efforts have been shaped by changing understandings of the place of wildlife in relationship to settlement, and the complex geographies of coyotes themselves. This thesis argues that coyote control has been a losing battle: an attempt to claim space from a species that thrives in the margins; an effort to exterminate quintessential survivors. The evolution of coyote control in B.C. is best understood as a progressive concession of space.

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