VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — More than 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for a stop to the planned cull of coyotes in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.
Started by UBC applied animal biology student Leilani Pulsifer about a month ago, the petition states “culling is an ineffective method of dealing with the aggressive interactions that are happening at Stanley Park,” and calls for an integrated response between the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Park Board and the BC Conservation Officer Service.
Announced Friday, B.C.’s Ministry of Forests says up to 35 coyotes will be trapped and killed, due to the steady increase in the number and severity of the attacks by coyotes in the park. Since December 2020, more than 40 people have been injured, including several children. Seven coyotes have already been euthanized by the BC Conservation Officer Service.
In the petition, Pulsifer writes that while the response is “understandable, the problem is that culling predators has been proven time and time again to be an ineffective solution. This is especially true in the case of coyotes because they are extremely adaptable to changes and in response to a lowered population, will retaliate in two ways: compensatory reproduction and immigration.”
In a video by Pulsifer posted to YouTube, she explains that “several studies” show that culling coyotes, or other predators, as a form of population control has been “unsuccessful and in many cases results in the opposite effect.”
“Compensatory reproduction refers to the observed event, where in response to a lower population, females will demonstrate a higher reproductive output. This ultimately means a larger population of coyotes in the long run,” she says.
Pulsifer also points to the immigration of other coyote populations to Stanley Park, once the current population is removed. She also notes the role that coyotes play within the ecosystem as a predator that is “higher up the food chain.”
Pulsifer ultimately says the culling of coyotes does not address the issue of why the park has been seeing a rise in aggressive interactions.
“Studies have shown that there’s a correlation between aggressive behaviors in coyotes and the occurrence of wildlife feeding by humans,” she says. “By feeding coyotes, or any other type of wildlife, you’re habituating them to the presence of humans and essentially training them to expect food from us.”
To keep safe while visiting the park, Pulsifer shares some tips to use if you encounter a coyote, including to “haze” the coyote by making yourself look big and make a lot of noise, consider carrying dog or bear spray, or carrying an air horn, and avoid using the park alone at dawn or dusk.
“Anything that gives you a secondary line of defense,” she says.
Pulsifer’s petition urges the BCCOS to work with wildlife biologists and coyote experts to identify the aggressive individuals, asks the Vancouver Park Board to enforce the BC Wildlife Act that states a person cannot intentionally feed dangerous wildlife, and asks the City of Vancouver to pass a bylaw that prohibits the feeding of wildlife within its park areas.
Other animal rights groups have also called into question the ministry’s decision to cull the coyotes.
The Fur-Bearers and Coyote Watch Canada say they are left feeling anger and sadness over the decision.
The animal rights advocates say, “It isn’t only the lack of communication that has allowed the Stanley Park situation to grow, but lack of enforcement,” they wrote in a statement criticizing the Vancouver Park Board.
While the ministry says biologists and conservation officers studied the non-lethal option of relocating the animals, but determined it was not possible because the animals are so food conditioned and human-habituated.
Meanwhile, the park board announced as of Friday evening, the closure of Stanley Park to non-essential access will be extended from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. each day to support the Ministry of Forests undertake the cull.