UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 4| Apr.
Coyotes Prey on Children
Public unaware of the risk
By Hilary Thomson
Cat-killer, cartoon character or funny-looking dog -- perceptions
of the coyote may vary but one thing is certain -- a hungry
coyote sees a small child as just another menu item.
Fourth-year medical student Dennis Boparai was part of a
team of undergraduate researchers that recently explored coyote
attacks on kids in the Lower Mainland.
“Most Vancouverites like the area’s mix of nature
and urban living but there is a trade-off,” he says.
“Coyotes have learned to co-habit with us in the city
as their natural territory is reduced and their presence represents
a risk to children.”
About 2,000 coyotes live in the Lower Mainland In addition
to plentiful sources of food, city environments provide coyotes
safety from natural predators such as bears, cougars or wolves.
Most coyote attacks involve children up to seven years old.
Some cases are shocking -- bold, daylight grabs such as an
incident where a coyote bit and tried to drag off a baby while
the mother was gardening only a few feet away. Another incident
involved an 18-month-old boy who was playing near a soccer
field when a coyote bit him above the eye, requiring seven
stitches. A coyote stalked and charged a three-year-old boy
near an elementary school. Adults were nearby in both attacks.
Boparai and the research team found that public awareness
was low concerning coyote behaviour and risks of attack. In
particular, warnings are necessary to ensure people don’t
feed coyotes or attract them by leaving pet food or garbage
in the open.
Boparai presented the team’s findings to an international
wilderness medicine conference in Whistler, B.C. and to an
international urban health conference in New York City. In
addition, the study is due to be published in the Journal
of Wilderness Medicine.
Boparai is interested in coyote bites not only because he
hopes to specialize in plastic surgery but also because he
feels doctors need to examine public health issues surrounding
trauma and alert people to risks.
“There’s always a social backdrop to medical
issues -- that’s an area that interests me and where
I would like to make some impact,” says the 25-year-old.
The project was supervised by Nicholas Carr, head, UBC division
of plastic surgery and Wendy Cannon, research co-ordinator.