Coyotes don't want to eat your baby.
Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker made that assurance on Tuesday, as he asked staff to draft a "no-kill" policy for dealing with the wild canines that often stray into residential areas.
A Toronto police officer shot and killed a coyote in Cabbagetown last month, believing it could be a threat to residents. But De Baeremaeker says that taking lethal action against the critters is unwarranted because they pose no danger to humans and only rarely attack pets.
"Coyotes are not going to steal your baby, they're not going to assault you, they're not going to chase you down the street," he told reporters outside a meeting of the Licensing and Standards Committee, where he successfully moved a motion to study the policy.
"I think people are afraid of the wild, and afraid of that image of a dingo, or a wolf - or a werewolf," he continued. "The answer is, you're overreacting. This is a beautiful, magnificent animal."
Staff are expected to come back to the committee in September with a report on the revamped policy. It would then go to council for final approval.
De Baeremaeker said that the city already has a no-kill protocol, but he's asking staff to formalize it and provide appropriate guidance to emergency responders like the police.
The councillor for Scarborough Centre also expects staff to recommend a bylaw that would prohibit feeding coyotes. He says that giving food to the animals is effectively a death sentence for them, because it normalizes contact with humans and makes it more likely that they will eventually bite someone.
"If you feed that coyote, you're killing that coyote. Once that coyote gets comfortable around people, it has to be put down," he said.
Shannon Kornelsen of the Beach Coyote Coalition praised De Baeremaeker's efforts Tuesday afternoon, saying that bylaws against shooting and feeding the animals will help foster peaceful coexistence between them and their human neighbours.
"We're over the moon, thrilled about this," Kornelsen said. "It's great. It's based on the scientific evidence that shows that coyotes are not a threat to people."
The coalition was founded in response to a rash of recent coyote sightings in the Beaches area. The group hopes to minimize interactions with the animals through a pilot project that tracks local sightings and educates residents about the importance of not feeding them.
It's not known exactly how large the city's coyote population is, but according to Toronto Animal Services spokesperson Mary Lou Leiher, it likely numbers in the hundreds.
She says the population has recovered from a mange epidemic that killed many coyotes and foxes in the mid-2000s, and is now thriving. Animal Services receives roughly 200 calls about coyotes each year from all across the city.
Highly adaptable omnivores, the creatures survive in the urban environment by scavenging garbage and roadkill, foraging for berries, or hunting smaller animals. They're naturally timid but can become emboldened by people who feed them either on purpose or inadvertently, by leaving food outside for birds or pets.
Leiher agrees that coyotes aren't dangerous, and advises anyone who encounters one to act unafraid and do their best to scare it off.
"If you see a coyote, you should actively scare it away. Because we don't want them to learn that people aren't scary," she says. "What people should do is be big, and be loud, and wave their arms around. Even take an aggressive step towards the coyote, throw something in its direction, that type of thing, until it runs away."