By Kathryn Stocksand Denise Bacon
Leone and Mark Foxwell had a frightening experience in December that they shared with us and on social media. One of their dogs was attacked in their backyard by a large animal they‘re calling a coywolf, a hybrid of coyote and wolf.
Leone wrote that in the few seconds it took them to open the door and run screaming across the yard, the animal had bitten their dog Remy three times before grabbing him by the throat and carrying him about 10 feet to the fence. The animal paused for a moment to look at them, then dropped Remy and easily hopped over the side fence.
She and Mark have seen several coyotes in this neighbourhood over the past 13 years and they have all been small, skinny and very skittish. This animal was different, they said. It was not just a large or fluffy coyote, it was about the size of a German Shepherd.
Dr. Esther Attard, the city’s Chief Veterinarian and Director (Acting) of Toronto Animal Services, appreciates that people are worried about wild animal attacks on pets and she wants to alleviate our concerns by dispelling the myth of a “coywolf.” She said that the name is a misnomer that started in Algonquin Park decades ago.
What we have in Ontario are eastern coyotes, which are a mix of coyote, wolf and dog. The important thing here is not the name but our ability to coexist with these creatures. They adjust quickly to human environments and we should try hard not to have them associate people with food.
Coyotes and other wild animals have predictable behaviour for the most part, Dr. Attard said. They forage for food and will go to where it’s easily available. Lesley Sampson from Coyote Watch said coyotes are naturally afraid of people and it would be extremely unusual for a coyote to attack a person. They are attracted to dogs because of shared DNA, potentially viewing them as competitors for food.
The most vital point made by both women is to not feed wild animals on purpose or inadvertently. They suggested we all do an “attractant inventory” around our properties to ensure there are no accessible food scraps, including bird feeders. Smaller creatures at a feeder will attract larger predators. And given the proximity of our neighbourhood to many park areas, it is crucial to not leave pets unattended.
Leone and Mark do not blame the animal that attacked their dog as it was just doing what wild animals need to do to survive. They only want to help raise awareness so that people can coexist with wildlife. To avoid further altercations, they have made a list of the things they’ll be doing in future, including not letting their dogs into the backyard unless they go outside with them; never letting them go off-leash except in a fenced yard with them present; taking their bird feeder in at night; and making sure there is no scent of food anywhere around their house.
Although their dog Remy was badly hurt in the attack and had a collapsed trachea, he is home now and is doing much better.
Residents are encouraged to visit the wildlife section of Toronto Animal Services for helpful information and to report coyote sightings: toronto.ca/community-people/animals-pets/wildlife-in-the-city/coyotes/
Coyote Watch Canada also has a useful website to learn about coyotes and to report sightings: coyotewatchcanada.com