Anyone reviewing this past week's news in Alberta, has probably seen the story reported in the media of the young lady who was attacked and bitten by a coyote while at a rest stop along the Trans-Canada Highway in Southern Alberta, where her parents had stopped for a break from driving. They were not responsible for this unprovoked attack in any way. Unfortunately, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I am not going to go into any details here other than my thoughts go out to this young person & her parents who underwent such a physical & mental traumatic experience. Am certain no one out there would wish to be undergoing the medical treatment that lies ahead, such as shots for rabies, etc.
Feeding of said coyote by people in general was alluded to in initial reports. The popularity of a rest stop would involve multiple visitors, food and ignorance of wildlife behaviour by some, i.e. feeding predators such as coyotes either by throwing food or leaving food behind is a dangerous practice.
Now for the "Why's":
1. Why do some individuals continue to believe that giving wildlife (particularly predators) food is a kindness?
In fact, they are most likely handing out an execution order. Not only is this practice dangerous to a wild animal but also to other people. Predators such as coyotes, having been fed by people, can potentially turn to the next person who comes along for another hand-out & if it is not forthcoming, attacks may ensue.
Education could be one answer and what better way than to educate the future, i.e. the young people attending schools. Educate the young and hopefully they can educate other generations. There are teachers out there already doing exactly this.
2. Why does the news media insist on dwelling on only the attack. Why are they not investigating/researching into the reasons for the attack. As mentioned in the news release, Alberta Fish & Wildlife is taking this seriously due to the rare nature of a coyote attack as aggressive as this one. One thing is for certain - if and when this coyote is located, it will be euthanized and a necropsy performed. If no medical reasons are uncovered, (rabies, poor condition, etc.), the mystery of the attack will remain unsolved.
This is not the first time the news media has not, in my opinion, asked pertinent questions. This past September, 13 hikers were "followed" by a mother Grizzly Bear & her large cub for 20 minutes on a path near Moraine Lake in Banff. First, this bear and her youngster were most likely using the same path to get from Point A to Point B and couldn't get by. Why didn't the hikers, as a group, move away from the path and let the bears pass. Why was the guide the only individual carrying bear spray??? Surely at least every second person should have been carrying a can. And no, more cans do not mean all carriers spray at once. Every second person carrying a can of spray means he/she could defend themselves as well as a "buddy" against a bear attack". And why didn't mainstream news media ask these questions?
3. Why don't the Authorities do more to enforce the "Do Not Feed the Wildlife" rule in Provincial & Municipal parks? I realise that the natural areas involved are vast and officers can't be in all places at all times but there must be certain areas where humans & wildlife are more likely to interact, eg. campgrounds, picnic areas, etc. And when fines are handed out, they should be substantial. If fines are meaningful, the message will be distributed by "word of mouth".
In closing, in all my years photographing wildlife, I have not had a close encounter of the unwanted kind. (Hopefully, I am not jinxing myself here.) I use a long lens for photography & try to always be aware of my surroundings. I do carry a small pepper spray attached to my the front of my backpack, ready to use. However, this spray was purchased not for wildlife but because of an encounter I had last Winter with a 40 pound Pitbull which was off leash illegally in a provincial park. Its owner was less than 20 feet away when the dog ran towards me, got half way and then did a "bluff charge". It then proceeded to cover the distance to where I was sitting and jumped up behind me on the log where I was sitting. And then as I scrambled to protect myself & camera equipment, it put its paws on my back & wanted to play! And what did the owner do? Absolutely nothing but waited until the dog eventually ran back to him, when he put on the leash and slunk out of the park.
And now for some photos of one of favourite subjects, Canis latrans or more commonly known, the coyote. I would add in closing, the only attention, that I experienced from these canids, is "avoidance". (To reiterate, these photos were taken in a provincial park and are not of the coyote involved in the above mentioned attack.)