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Coyote attacks: Expert says animals in Vancouver's Stanley Park exhibiting 'abnormal behaviour'

Vancouver -

Conservation officers are once again warning the public to stay out of Vancouver's Stanley Park after three coyote attacks were recorded in a four-day period and one expert says there are several reasons these incidents keep happening.

Dozens of aggressive coyote encounters have been recorded over the last several months, persisting even after several animals were captured and killed by officers. The most recent attack happened on Saturday, when a man walking along a path near the Stanley Park Pitch and Putt golf course was bitten on the leg. 

Shelley Alexander, a coyote expert who teaches at the University of Calgary, spoke with CTV Morning Live Monday saying it appears there are several factors involved in the recent incidents.

"The Stanley Park issue is more complicated than normal situations," she said. "There's always a constellation of events that lead to these … no one is the key cause here."

Alexander said in all the cases she's studied across Canada, 100 per cent of the coyotes were either hand fed or food conditioned.

"That's a precursor to an attack," she said, adding that in Stanley Park there's "definitely chronic feeding."

But that wasn't the only issue Alexander noticed.

"I looked at some of the maps and there's displacement of coyotes from their normal area of living by the homeless encampments," she said.

"These animals have now been pushed into fringe areas where they're more in contact with people and more likely to get into conflict."

Alexander said there may be even more severe reasons behind the animals' erratic actions.

"The behaviour of some of these individuals suggest they've ingested toxins or drugs, possibly opioids. There's also some indication of possible abuse of these animals," she said.

"This is abnormal behaviour that we're seeing but the key thing is here they've lost their bite inhibition and so this is no longer a situation that you could consider a co-existence scenario."

Ultimately, Alexander said homeless encampments are "a contributing factor to the displacement," and if there's one leading cause to the animals' aggressive behaviour, it's likely the food conditioning.

"The challenge here with this situation is that we're really not sure of the history of these individuals and some of the behaviour is erratic," she said.

Alexander recommended members of the public stay away from closure areas and be vigilant in the park. Anyone who notices a coyote approaching them can respond by yelling, putting their arms up, clapping their hands or using an umbrella. Top Stories

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