‘Modified’ leghold traps being used to cull coyotes in Stanley Park

Province says traps are designed to minimize chances of physical pain and are monitored continuously

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The province says foothold traps being used to catch and kill coyotes in Stanley Park have been modified to minimize the risk of pain to the wild animals.

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But Rebeka Breder, an animal rights lawyer, said Wednesday she believes the traps will cause “excruciating pain” and “enormous amount of suffering” to the trapped animal.

“They’re baiting leghold traps. They’re saying they’ll be padded. That doesn’t bring me any comfort whatsoever,” Breder said. “These leghold traps essentially slam down on what gets stuck — usually it’s a paw, sometimes it’s a neck.”

Last week, the provincial government said it would kill up to 35 coyotes to protect public safety.

Since December, 2020, there have been reports of 45 attacks by coyotes on people in the park. Five attacks were on children.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said in a statement Wednesday that one coyote had been caught and killed overnight.

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The ministry said the coyotes are being caught in “modified foothold traps” which are continuously monitored by camera, so that the amount of time a coyote spends in the trap is minimized.

“The mechanism for these type of traps minimizes the risk of any pain or damage to the animal,” the ministry said.

The province has contracted professional trappers to help catch the coyotes. Once caught, a provincial wildlife officer is called to sedate the animal and then kill it using a bolt gun, a device “used routinely to humanely kill livestock.”

The ministry said the “stomach contents will be preserved and analyzed to determine diet.” The animals will also be tested for diseases.

The ministry was unable to say what necropsies have shown from coyotes that were killed in the park earlier this year. The province did not make anyone available for interviews on Wednesday and is only taking reporters’ questions in writing.

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Breder said she’d like to know what kind of measures the government is planning to take to get at the root cause of what’s going on in Stanley Park between coyotes and humans.

“Probably more important to me is that there has been a lack of enforcement on the prohibition to feed wildlife,” she said.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has said no tickets have been issued for illegally feeding wildlife in Stanley Park.

Breder said the lack of enforcement infuriates her.

“It is illegal to feed wildlife. Why on earth have they not enforced this law?” she said.

“Some people need a $500 ticket — I would suggest a very high fine — to learn their lesson.”

Earlier Wednesday, Mayor Kennedy Stewart said Vancouver is playing a supportive role to both the B.C. Conservation Officer Service and the park board.

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“I’m really sad for the need to cull the coyotes,” he said at an online news conference. “I just feel really sad about the whole thing but I understand why because of public safety.”

Stewart said the city will be reviewing “the situation with the park board and B.C. Conservation Officer Service to see what the city of Vancouver can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

The park board expects to have coyote-proof garbage bins in place this week.

As well, there will be multilingual “Don’t feed Coyotes” signs to reflect the largest language groups in Vancouver. Signs will be in Tagalog, the main language spoken the Philippines, and in simplified and traditional Chinese characters.

Stanley Park remains closed to the public from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. daily. All trails inside the park are closed at all times.

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When the park is open, the public is asked to only use the seawall, open grassy areas, paved roads and businesses.

A study published in 2018 found that the range of coyotes has “dramatically expanded since 1900.”

The study, which looked at where coyotes have been found the past 10,000 years, described Canis latrans (the Latin name for the species) as an “incredibly adaptive carnivore” that’s been able to expand its geographic range by about 40 per cent or “at least twice as much as any other North American carnivore during the same time period.”

It attributed the expansion to factors that included the elimination of predator species such as wolves and cougars.

Traditionally, coyotes have been found in grasslands, prairies and deserts but learned to adapt to forested areas in the early 20th century.

“Coyote expansion began around 1900 as they moved north into taiga forests, east into deciduous forests, west in coastal temperature rain forests, and south into rainforests,” the study’s abstract says.

The Vancouver Sun first reported about coyotes in Stanley Park in 1988.

kevingriffin@postmedia.com

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