Officials in Vancouver say conflicts between humans and coyotes in the city's largest urban park could continue into summer, when Stanley Park is at its busiest.
Dannie Piezas, who runs the Stanley Park Ecology Society's program Coexisting with Coyotes, says the past four months have been among the most challenging times for the program, which aims to reduce conflicts between humans and the dozen animals known to live in the four-square-kilometre park.
Fifteen people have been bitten by coyotes since Dec. 15.
"Even as we anticipate having more people this summer, I think that conflicts are avoidable but people have to educate themselves," Piezas said. "And be prepared when they come into the park."
Coyotes can be more visible and assertive in March and April as they prepare to raise pups, but Piezas says the behaviours displayed in the biting incidents are more consistent with the animals losing their fear of humans because they are likely being fed.
So even as the denning season comes to a close, there is concern that negative encounters will continue unless the feeding stops, and more people learn how to stay safe in the park.
Some regular park visitors are already avoiding the park over concerns about animals.
Since December, the society says there have been more than 150 reports of coyote encounters in Stanley Park, which is not unusually high, but Piezas says media coverage of the issue may be driving additional reports.
In early January, conservation officers shut down parts of the park at select times to track some of the animals, two of which were destroyed.
The Stanley Park Ecology Society recently published an image on its Facebook page that shows where the biting incidents have happened.
Conservation officers continue to respond to incidents in the park and, along with the Stanley Park Ecology Society, advise people on what to do if you do come across an animal that approaches, such as making noise and making yourself look big.
The society also hopes that signs and other advocacy will help people become more aware of the animals, how to co-exist with them without incident, and also remind people to stop feeding the animals.
On March 9, city councillors passed a motion asking staff to develop a bylaw that would allow the city to ticket people intentionally feeding wildlife in the city.
It is an offence under the provincial Wildlife Act to feed or intentionally attract dangerous wildlife such as coyotes.
People who witness coyotes being fed in the park or see food being left out can report it using a form on the SPES website.
The society said a UBC initiative has installed cameras in the park to capture images of the coyotes to better identify them and perhaps determine how they are being fed.
There have been no new biting incidents since Feb. 17., which Piezas attributes to better awareness from park users.
All the biting incidents have involved adults running in the park, most often between dusk and dawn.
Other runners and a few cyclists have been chased by the animals, but not bitten.
To report aggressive coyote encounters, call the provincial RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.