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Jun. 23, 2021 | Wednesday
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Coyotes growing brazen in NOTL
Reports of coyotes chasing people and being aggressive in NOTL are on the rise. (File photo/Piroska Bacso)

Teen boy attacked, others chased and dog snatched from porch

 

Incidents involving brazen coyotes have been occurring frequently in Niagara-on-the-Lake and on Monday night a 14-year-old boy was attacked in Virgil.

Billy Pillitteri-Smith suffered some scratches and a minor wound, requiring him to undergo a series of rabies shots.

Billy's been "a total trooper," his mother Eileen Pilliterri-Smith told The Lake Report.

“I heard Billy screaming, because the coyote was running behind him. I think he tried to get on his bike and it grabbed his leg,” said Cohen Alexander, 13.

Cohen was with Billy and several other friends at Centennial Sports Park in Virgil playing soccer when the coyote appeared.

“All of us started running except for my friend Lucas (Williams), because it was going for everybody who was running,” Cohen said in an interview.

The coyote chased a pair of girls out of the park and down a side street before returning to chase Billy and grab his leg.

"The coyote got into a sort of lunge position and Billy turned away because he was afraid that it was going to go for his face. But he turned and it got the upper side of his leg," Pillitteri-Smith said.

Cohen said he didn’t stop running out of fear that there might be a pack of coyotes, but it seems there was just one.

“I had to yell at one of my friends because it was really close to him and then it chased us for a while and just stopped,” Cohen said.

Family friend and nurse Colleen O'Gorman came over the night of the attack to clean and bandage Billy's leg. His father took him to the hospital the next day as a precaution.

His injury is not confirmed to be a bite, but such wounds from wild-animals present serious dangers for infection, hence the rabies shots.

The doctors "don't know (the nature of the injury). It could have been a claw puncture or it could have been a tooth puncture," Pillitteri-Smith said.

Billy and "all of his buddies are sort of enjoying the attention now," she laughed.

Then on Tuesday evening, Cohen and friends were playing on Sorenson Court in Virgil when a coyote appeared out of the foliage and chased them.

“They were on bikes, so they got home real quick. I drove down the street, and there’s this Mennonite family that lives nearby,” Cohen’s father Robert Alexander told The Lake Report.

“The coyote chased the kids around, I heard the kids scream. They ran inside and then it just sat on the driveway. I was standing there and then it just sauntered off. It wasn’t scared of us at all.”

Alexander stressed the strange behaviour the coyote exhibited.

“I’ve lived here 14 or 15 years and I’ve run into coyotes multiple times. They usually just turn around and go away,” he said.

Jo Zambito, deputy fire chief of Niagara Falls, lives on Sorenson and saw the coyote on Tuesday night just after it chased the kids.

As a father, he finds the brazen attitude of the coyote to be a concern.

“But regardless of that there’s a lot of dog walkers and a lot of seniors in the area,” Zambito said. “It’s too close to home. We’ve got to get rid of it, that’s for sure.”

Over the past two weeks, players at the NOTL Golf Club have reported multiple up-close sightings of large coyotes who don't seem intimidated by humans. There also was at least one report of a coyote hunting deer on the course.

Another concerning incident involving a lone coyote took place a few weeks ago near Henry Street in Virgil.

Janille Kroeker was out for a run with her daughter Allie when they saw a man confronting an animal on the street.

“As we got closer, we realized that it was actually a really healthy-looking coyote,” Kroeker said.

After the two walked past, the coyote ignored the man and started following Kroeker and her daughter from the other side of the road.

“It was so interesting to see a coyote” this close, Kroeker said.

But the coyote would not leave them alone.

“I started walking backwards because I wasn’t about to turn my back on a coyote,” Kroeker said.

The coyote appeared to lose interest in the pair and sauntered off into the woods.

“We heard footsteps behind us. It was the coyote and it was now chasing us,” she said.

Kroeker said the coyote was in a full gallop toward them.

“I lost all sense of what I should have done, which is to stop and act big and yell, and I just said ‘run’ to Allie.”

Kroeker and her daughter ran to a nearby residence for safety, but Kroeker tripped on the lawn.

“And when I popped back up the coyote was maybe five or six feet away from me. That’s when I started screaming like a crazy person,” she said.

The coyote looked at her for a moment and then walked away as if nothing had happened.

But more surprising news came later that night as Kroeker called a neighbour to tell them about the experience.

“She said that 10 minutes (after my experience), the coyote had chased a young teenager, too,” Kroeker said.

She said NOTL canine control officer Ken Reid told her the coyote did not seem to be acting aggressively, but that it had been getting fed by someone in the neighbourhood and had grown comfortable near residents, associating them with a free meal.

In another incident, Welland resident Barbara Lanyon brought her dog Elsa to her daughter’s house in NOTL on Friday, June 4. She was going away for the weekend and leaving the dog with her daughter.

That very evening a coyote attacked and killed Elsa on East and West Line.

“She was more of a therapy dog for me,” Lanyon said in a Facebook message. “We had been through a lot of hard times together.”

Elsa was on the porch at the time of the attack and Lanyon is concerned the coyote was confident enough to go right up to the house.

Lanyon said her daughter’s dog was attacked and killed by a coyote over a year ago on the same property.

*****

Here is some advice from a video by coyotecoexistence.com on what to do should you come across one of these wild canines. 

And remember, all wild animals deserve respect.

Coyote visiting my yard frequently: Coyotes trek through areas to mark their territories so other coyotes won’t move in and visit hunting areas. You can do your part to prevent coyotes from coming into your yard by not leaving food out. It can also help to rotate large objects in your yard, as coyotes are “uneasy about novelty.” Be fierce in shooing coyotes if you don’t want them there. Keep your pets indoors if coyote sightings are frequent, especially at night or when not monitored.

Fearful for my small children: Your fears are not unwarranted. Coyotes tend to be less afraid of critters smaller than themselves, so err on the side of caution. Young children should always be supervised, for many reasons, not just coyotes. However, keep in mind that people, busy streets and regular dog bites far outweigh the risk of coyotes. Teach children not to approach or taunt coyotes and to seek an adult if they see one. In an emergency situation, a loud scream should scare any coyote away.

Put it into perspective: You are extremely unlikely to be attacked by a coyote. Putting that into perspective is helpful. For example, about 5,000 people get killed crossing the street in a given year. There are about 17 coyote bites per year reported in all of North America — often related to a human interfering with a coyote approaching a pet. Meanwhile, about 1,000 people are sent to emergency rooms from dog bites daily. Only two human deaths have ever been recorded as a result of a coyote attack. This includes the death of an infant whose father had been feeding a coyote. To state the obvious: Don’t feed coyotes.

Shooing coyotes (not approaching your pet): Often walking toward a coyote while making eye contact is enough to make it move. If necessary, make movements and add noise by clapping. One caveat is that a coyote will stand its ground to protect its young, much like a human would. If a coyote stands its ground, this is most likely the reason why and instead it is best to move on.

Worried about my pet: Coyote and pet interactions generally fall into two categories — those involving territorial issues, and those involving small pets as prey. While the risks are minimal, almost all urban coyote issues revolve around unsupervised pets. So keep an eye on them. In almost all instances, coyotes will flee if they see you and your dog approaching them. Coyotes view all canines, any size, as potential threats and competitors for food. Walk your dog on a leash.

Coyote following us: A coyote may follow a dog out of curiosity or to monitor it — the same way people might follow someone suspicious to see what they’re up to. Just keep walking away while keeping an eye on it. Don’t run, as this could invite chasing.

Coyote approaches dog: In the unlikely event that a coyote does approach a dog, shoo it away fiercely. Throw a tantrum, make noise and actions, approach it and keep eye contact. It likely will leave. Once it leaves, leash the dog and leave the area. Remember, your dog is more likely to be attacked by another pet than a coyote.

Coyote attack: If a coyote nips at your dog, it is most likely sending a message to stay away. Coyotes try not to engage in full fights with dogs, as it could lead to them being injured and not able to hunt.

Worried about my small dog or cat: Small pets can be seen as prey animals. While coyotes don’t seek out pets, they may take a small, unattended pet if the opportunity is there. This is almost always preventable by keeping an eye on your pets or keeping them indoors. 

Habituation and hazing: It is normal for coyotes in urban environments to get used to people. Remember, it’s not necessary to scare, shoo or haze coyotes every time you see one. In fact, they could get used to this and start ignoring it. If the coyote isn’t causing an issue, leave it alone.

Don’t feed coyotes: Coyotes will not approach humans unless taught to do so by someone feeding them. Don’t feed coyotes.

 

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