VANCOUVER – Songbirds, the clip-clop of a large horse-drawn carriage … these are the only noises heard on what is usually a busy stretch of road in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, a lush urban retreat surrounded by the ocean and home to ancient trees and wildlife. A terrifying new sound has driven pedestrians away.
The grass fields in the park are empty. The wide circles of benches sit lonely and the corridors to guide leisure seekers through their leafy canopies are sterile.
The horses are pulling a lighter load as only a handful of passengers are in the cart.
The reason for the shortage of people weighs heavily on tranquility.
Since mid-December, the park has witnessed more than 30 attacks on humans by coyotes.
No one is quite sure why they are happening. They also do not know if only one coyote is responsible or more.
The park is home to about 12 coyotes, and people feeding wildlife are a big problem, likely contributing to the attacks, said Nadia Xenakis, manager of urban wildlife programs for the Stanley Park Ecological Society. The problem of human encroachment in areas where coyotes have lived without people may be contributing to the difficulties.
Vancouver residents are suddenly cutting the park off their summer to-do list. One of the busiest urban parks in the country, and a place considered by many to be the jewel in the city’s crown, the retreat is now off-limits to many locals’ minds.
The last attack by a coyote was against a two-year-old girl, who was with a group of adults and other children, near the aquarium, Monday night. Her father quickly stopped the attack, but the girl was sent to hospital, having been bitten on the head and neck.
In the following days, the British Columbia Conservation Service has destroyed four coyotes in the area of the attack, for a total of six since the assaults began, and warned the public to avoid the park.
On the west side of the park, the walking trails are closed by yellow signs that block your entry points and warn of danger. (The scene is reminiscent of the 1975 movie Jaws, in which the local police chief, Brody, closes the beaches due to shark attacks.)
The signs in the Vancouver park are a necessary warning, Sgt. Simon Gravel of the Conservation Officers Service.
“Word has spread, they are there and people must be alert. If you are not comfortable taking this risk, our recommendation is to avoid the park, ”said Gravel. “If you want to use the park at your own risk, our recommendation is not to travel alone, be aware of your surroundings and, if you come with children, make sure you have them very close to you and supervise them in everything. times.”
Gravel said that, in 12 years, he had never seen such attacks in Stanley Park, and that’s not counting those of the dogs.
Attacks on humans have ranged from serious bites to minor scratches. At first, the coyotes attacked runners, but now they are targeting walkers and even people on bicycles, he said.
In April, a man collided with a coyote on an electric scooter late at night, causing him to crash and injure his collarbone. While they were on the ground, two more animals began to pinch and bite him until another person arrived and called 911.
It is not understood why the coyotes are attacking. Coyotes already euthanized are being scrutinized for “meaningful” information, Gravel said.
Xenakis is trying to discover a reason for the animals’ behavior, calling it “extremely abnormal”.
He said it can’t be attributed to just one thing.
“We have not been able to identify the individuals, so we do not know if this is a coyote, perhaps, the one that is doing this,” he said.
“It seems like, often enough, people are concerned that it’s all the coyotes (in the park), but I don’t necessarily think that’s the case.”
“I think there are probably various things going on,” Xenakis said.
The Stanley Park Ecological Society will share its recommendations on how to deal with coyotes next week. They will include increasing research on animals and checking what some of their food sources may be.
Some people visit Stanley Park and are not concerned about the risk and enjoy the relative solitude that the park now offers. No problem getting a patio seat at an upscale bar and grill that sells $ 23 burgers while the swings at a nearby playground sit idle.
Bhupinder Parhar and her eight-year-old daughter, Rehmat, wait at the Stanley Park train station, the starting point of a popular two-kilometer miniature train ride through part of the park.
Like the Don Gibson hit of the 1950s, “Oh, Lonesome Me!” rings through the station’s speakers, the couple lines up for the train. They are the only people there. Eventually, a few other families leak into the covered waiting area.
Nearby, a poster offers tips on how to “get along” with coyotes.
Parhar is not worried about animals; in all his visits to the park, he has never seen one.
“This is the first time we’ve seen the coyote sign here,” he says. “I’ve seen the signs before in different parts (of the park), but not here.”
Far from being scared, Rehmat hopes that she does it find a coyote.
“I think it would look great,” he says.
The city of Vancouver has been talking about finding ways to get along with animals for years. According to an administrative report, the attacks on children brought the presence of coyotes into the spotlight two decades ago.
Later, the city increased its efforts to educate the public on how to live safely with animals.
Today, although public safety is prioritized, a mass sacrifice of the creatures is not being considered, Gravel said.
“That has never been an issue.
“The fundamental question for all stakeholders, including the Conservation Officials Service (COS), is how can we maintain public safety in the park and a healthy wildlife population?”
—With files from The Canadian Press
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