Wildlife advocates are raising questions about Ottawa’s approach to wildlife management after failing to get answers about why McCarthy Woods had traps after the city ended “Operation Wildlife” in November.
The city reported that it trapped and euthanized three wolves after sightings became common in Riverside Park South last summer and fall, and there was one report of a coyote in a school playground and others of coyotes running away with pets.
The city declared Operation Coyote Control over on November 4. However, a live coyote was found trapped in McCarthy Woods on November 28. The city said the trap was not authorized. There have also been reports of a coyote in the neighborhood with what is believed to be an untied trap on its leg.
Recently, there have been reports of a wolf losing its front paw, which has renewed calls for more humane management of wildlife.
About two weeks ago, Cliff Thompson, whose home is on Airport Parkway, saw a coyote lose its front left paw in an open area near Parkway. Thompson said there was no way of knowing if the wolf was hit by a snare or some other way, but he seemed to be mobile otherwise and, apart from missing, is otherwise healthy.
Wildlife advocates are discussing obtaining trail cameras so they can locate the injured animal and work with a wildlife rehabilitation organization if necessary.
“Seeing this injured wolf made people question the city’s trapping efforts,” said Michelle Brier, who lives about a kilometer from McCarthy Woods and often walks her dog there.
Breer said there have been two reports of dogs being killed in traps in recent months in Prince Edward Island.
The question is whether the bylaws have the background to manage this responsibly. And I think the answer to that is no,” she said. “Me and the other residents feel the safety of the forest has been compromised. I don’t feel like the city is taking it seriously.”
Anita Utas said people don’t want to contact the city about the injured wolf because they worry the city might call someone to euthanize the animal.
“It’s disgusting that this should happen to a living being,” said Utas.
Both the city and the National Capital Commission, which owns McCarthy Woods, maintain that there has been no foreclosure since November.
An NCC spokesperson said the National Motor Council has an agreement with the city of Ottawa to immobilize and move large animals such as moose, deer and black bear that are within the city’s municipal boundaries. The deal does not include coyotes.
In correspondence with a resident, Roger Chapman, the city’s director of bylaws and regulatory agencies, he said that unauthorized trap-type equipment not designated by the contractor rented by the city or the NCC was found in McCarthy Woods between October 14 and November 11. 4.
Decoys and other types of wildlife capture equipment can be purchased by the general public at outdoor stores, Chapman said, posing a challenge to ensuring a responsible wildlife management response.
“I can assure you there was nothing outrageous about the activities the city or the NCC is doing in the Riverside South Park area with regard to coyotes,” he wrote in an email to residents.
The city was aware of a coyote with a hunting light device on its leg.
In response to this newspaper’s questions, Chapman said the city has asked residents who have seen a wolf to report a sighting to 3-1-1 so an officer can be dispatched.
“Currently, the wolf in question has not been trapped or recovered and no sightings have been reported from the city in over a month,” he said. “The city has not been informed of any siege operations currently taking place in the area.”
Take Cone River. Riley Brockington asked city staff to review the practices of other Ontario municipalities, other levels of government and wildlife groups to produce a coyote management strategy and present it to the city’s new Protective Services and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
A draft strategy is expected to be ready by late winter.
Utas hopes the city will connect with wildlife experts who understand wolf behavior and can offer public advice on how to coexist with them peacefully. She said the city’s strategy should be humane and progressive, should not involve any lethal methods and members of the public should be informed on how to change their behaviour.
In many municipalities the use of snares is prohibited. “There is knowledge about how to co-exist with wildlife,” said Utas. “More and more people are getting involved and saying, ‘It’s not true.'”
Wildlife advocates have argued that catching and killing wolves only creates a vacant niche in the local ecosystem, making room for other coyotes to move about, especially if human food sources such as overflow containers are available.
“The wolves aren’t the problem, the people are,” Thompson said.
“I want to set the city on high for the way they treat wildlife,” Brier said.
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