Rabbits and ravines bring coyotes to Meadowlark

By Shaamini Yogaretnam

coyotes

A coyote walks towards 156 Street on 92 Avenue on Feb. 25, 2012. Photograph by Meadowlark resident Rocio Lopez-Bretzlaff.

MEADOWLARK —­ The Meadowlark community of west Edmonton is playing host to some unexpected visitors this spring.

There have been sightings of coyotes in and around the area of 92 Avenue. Meadowlark Community League president David Gibbens says the reports have been steady for the last three years. But this year, the community might have the large population of rabbits to thank for luring the predatory guests.

“I go for a walk every night and I would probably see anywhere from five to 10 (rabbits) on any given night,” Gibbens said.

Parks Ranger Ramsey Cox says that the city doesn’t have any complaints about rabbits in Meadowlark on record for the year. The rabbit population is higher this spring because of the extremely mild winter and the lack of snow, says Cox. Rabbits were able to access food all season long and didn’t contend with harsh elements for survival.

Maureen Murray is a PhD student working on the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project, a study being conducted at the University of Alberta on the movement and habitat selection of coyotes, their diet, and what popular perceptions of them are.

Murray believes that the rabbit food source may be causing coyotes to stay in Meadowlark, but the yards that back onto ravines and the river valley are what’s making it easier for them to get into the community in the first place.

“If you have a backyard with no fence, backing on to a green space and you also have a compost pile, there’s essentially nothing stopping this coyote from coming up the ravine and then going into your backyard,” Murray says.

Residents with lots backing onto ravines have an extra responsibility to secure their yards, she adds.

The Meadowlark community league is doing its part to alert residents of the sightings by posting notices throughout the community and on its website.

Whatever the reasons for their stay, the coyotes don’t seem to be going anywhere, with trappers’ estimates putting the number in the city at around 600.  The city’s advice to residents hasn’t changed.

“Make a lot of noise, throw sticks and stones, blow a whistle, shout in a deep voice, maintain eye contact,” says Cox. The aim is to make the coyote run away.