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UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 4| Apr. 1, 2004

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.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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