MONTREAL - After almost 400 reported sightings of coyotes on the island of Montreal over the past nine months, authorities announced on Tuesday a new hotline citizens can use if they spot the wild animals, who continue to pose risks to public safety.
Montreal joins several other Canadian cities, such as Toronto, Vancouver and Niagara Falls, that have set up hotlines and put in place other measures to deal with coyotes who inhabit urban environments.
Emilie Thuillier, a Montreal borough mayor and the city's spokesperson on the coyote issue, said the presence of the animals in residential areas needs to be taken seriously.
Aside from the new hotline that goes into service on Wednesday, the city formed a committee that is organizing information sessions about coyotes, patrols in various urban parks and door-to-door visits.
There have been 379 sightings on the island of Montreal since last June, Thuillier said, but added there is no indication how many different coyotes might be involved.
If there are 10 reported sightings in one day, it is usually the same coyote that's been seen, Thuillier explained.
"We know that there have been coyotes in Montreal for the past 40 years and particularly in the city's large parks," she said. "They usually wander along railway tracks that pass through residential areas."
She said coyotes are generally afraid of humans and are aggressive in only a few cases, but it's unclear what triggers the wild animals to attack.
"We don't know why and that's why we tell people not to feed them," Thuillier said.
Since last June, she said there have been five reported incidents on the island of Montreal involving aggressive coyotes that have snapped at people and nipped at their pants, but no one was hurt.
There have also been 10 cases of dogs being bitten, with one dying, she said. Some of the attacks were in her northeastern borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville.
Lesley Sampson, who co-founded Coyote Watch Canada in 2008, said in an interview there's been a noticeable increase in the number of communities that have consulted her non-profit advisory council.
"For me, the increase in the consultations since 2010 has just blossomed," said Sampson.
Sampson said her nation-wide organization, which is based in southern Ontario, has helped communities implement a "humane wildlife strategy framework."
Trapping and killing the animals doesn't solve anything because more will move in, she said.
Sampson noted that Vancouver, for example, has had a co-existence program in place since the 1990s.
Carey Campbell, Niagara Falls city manager, says 127 coyote sightings were reported in her region since January 2017, but none were threatening.
She said residents began reporting the sightings in 2009.
"If there are concerns about the animals going into residential areas, feeding off people's compost or garbage, we'll do an education blitz in the neighbourhood," Campbell said.