A video posted to Reddit is raising questions about what should be done if you encounter a coyote, particularly if it looks to be in bad shape. But one expert stresses there’s a few things worth knowing before contacting authorities or posting to social media.
The clip, which was posted to a Toronto subreddit, shows a coyote with patchy fur, limping swiftly across several driveways and properties.
The original poster made note of where in the district of North York they spotted the animal, and that they had called 311.
Some in the comments suggested that they try calling Toronto Wildlife Centre, while others noted a call to 311 would put them through to them regardless.
Several commenters suggested that the animal has mange, a skin disease caused by parasitic mites.
“Easily treated unless it's progressed too far," one person wrote. "Will be put to sleep most likely if caught.”
“The animal people need to come get that poor thing,” another wrote. “It’s not in good shape at all. Everyone watch out for your pets!”
Others in the comments echoed the sentiment that the animal will likely need to be put down.
Wildlife expert: 'Once it’s all over social media, it has a life of its own'
Lesley Sampson is the founding executive director with Coyote Watch Canada, a not-for-profit wildlife organization.
She says seeing coyotes in residential neighbourhoods shouldn’t be surprising since they live amongst us and might use the same roads and trails as humans do. But when the animal appears to be exhibiting exploratory behaviour around a neighbourhood, like the coyote in the video, it’s likely because they’re being fed.
“Somewhere along the line, getting close to homes has rewarded this coyote and it could be direct, or indirect,” she tells Yahoo Canada.
Direct feeding is when food is intentionally put out for the animal to eat. Indirect feeding includes fallen fruit that hasn’t been gathered from trees on a property, scattered bird feed or exposed compost.
When it comes to posting videos of the animal and where it was spotted on social media, Sampson says that could be a death sentence for the coyote.
“Some people might want to go there and feed, or get in there and harm the coyote,” she says. “Once it’s all over social media, it has a life of its own.”
Are they calling every time they see a loose dog running through the community? Or a deer? Or a skunk?
In regards to the animal’s appearance, Sampson notes it has significant hair loss and despite the injured leg, it is clearly still mobile — but reporting sightings of injured animals to welfare organizations is crucial for them to get the appropriate help.
“That coyote with three legs can outrun any human,” she says. “Unless it’s contained in a fenced-in yard, that coyote isn’t in a position to be secured for assessment and rehab.”
Colleen St. Clair, a professor of biological sciences at University of Alberta, suspects the coyote in the video has mange, which is highly contagious. She says that unhealthy animals are much more likely to rely on residential areas for both food and shelter, which could be why the coyote was in the neighbourhood.
"Those sick coyotes typically appear quite bold — they don't run away from people — but they are not usually aggressive," she said in an email. "Nonetheless, it's not great for them to be roaming around in people's yards."
When to report a coyote sighting
Sampson says there are a few instances when wildlife officials should be contacted, namely if the animal is spotted in the same neighbourhood frequently, or if it appears injured or in distress.
If there’s one on your property, Sampson says the first thing to do is to secure pets. Keep dogs close by and cats indoors. If the coyote is settled down in a yard, then call local wildlife resources.
However, she stresses that officials don’t need to be called for every coyote sighting.
“The public can’t expect rescue teams [to respond to every report] because they see this animal and they want something done right away. In the real world, that’s not how it works,” Sampson says. “Are they calling every time they see a loose dog running through the community? Or a deer? Or a skunk?”