the wild among us

I meant to blog about this when it happened, but it's still good news. First:
Outraged Beaches residents are demanding a stay of execution for their controversial neighbour, Neville the Coyote.

More than 230 people have signed a petition demanding to know why the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources refused to issue a special permit allowing the silver-grey coyote dubbed Neville to be relocated outside the city.

Under normal rules, the coyote can only be moved one kilometre.

In downtown Toronto, that does little to ease a potentially dangerous situation. Neville lives in the ravines around Neville Park Boulevard, a beautiful cul-de-sac of well-tended houses nestled between steep banks of trees.

Without a permit to take the animal further afield, Toronto Animal Services says it has no option but to catch and euthanize the coyote, which killed a small dog last month.

"I think everybody recognizes right now that the coyote is behaving in a manner that isn't suitable for the City of Toronto. If it was shying away from people, that'd be fine," said street resident Larry Blake.

But killing the coyote - one of three seen in the ravine - has some residents incensed.

Long-time resident Richard Milne said the province should explain its refusal to permit the animal's relocation.

"Obviously in the city, if you move it one kilometre, you may as well not move it," Mr. Milne said.

"I think the city could find a solution if the province would co-operate. I really feel it should be saved."

Not everyone feels the same way. When Katherine Blake started the petition on Saturday morning, knocking on neighbours' doors and gathering signatures on Queen Street East, she discovered a broad range of opinion.

"Some neighbours are obviously upset by what's happened," she said. "I can understand... [but] I still would not want to kill it. Fear should not dictate how we react. It should be based on an intelligent solution."

The city acknowledges the coyote's boldness is probably not its fault: Someone in the neighbourhood was likely feeding the coyote, making it less fearful of humans.

To Neville's advocates, that underlines their belief that the coyote isn't to blame, and shouldn't be made to pay the ultimate price.

And regardless whether the coyote is relocated or killed, its absence will open the ravine for another coyote to move in.

The problem is not going to disappear with Neville's removal, said Humane Society of Canada CEO and long-time Beaches resident Michael O'Sullivan.

"The whole city is built around a ravine system. This could happen in your neighbourhood," Mr. O'Sullivan said.

"We need to learn to co-exist. Neville is in many ways the flagship species, and the harbinger of what's to come."

The Humane Society said coyotes are adaptable and would survive relocation well. It suggested Neville could be turned loose in Algonquin Park or on open land north of the city.

Residents agree that something must be done, but Mr. Blake insisted that Neville should not be killed for doing what comes naturally.

"We live in a ravine area," he said. "If you don't like wildlife, go live in a condo."

Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Conrad Black and Scooter Libby missed out, but yesterday Neville the Coyote got his pardon.

After animal services posted notices of their intention to kill the notorious chihuahua hunter, calls and e-mails poured into the offices of Councillor Sandra Bussin over the weekend.

Ms. Bussin called Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield yesterday morning, and it was decreed that Neville's life should be spared.

Neville, who was named for Neville Park Boulevard, the road near Queen Street East and Victoria Park Avenue in the Beaches where he roams, gained notoriety when he grabbed a six-year-old chihuahua out of a backyard last month. Days later, when a Maltese and then a terrier were also attacked, residents became seriously concerned.

For the last five weeks, the city has tried to convince Neville to move on. But paintballs, air horns and other deterrents didn't do the trick.

Ms. Bussin was told by Toronto Animal Services agents that at least five families were feeding the coyote, which may explain why Neville has become so brazen and has been so reluctant to leave the bounty of his ravine.

"The wildlife expert believes that the coyote was born somewhere near that ravine last year, has become very accustomed to being fed and likes it there and didn't want to move on, no matter what intervention was used," Ms. Cansfield said.

It became clear that more drastic measures were needed, but the city's hands were tied: Approval from the ministry is required to move a coyote more than one kilometre from its home, and the city's application to have the coyote removed was denied last month.

The remaining option was euthanasia.

But despite Neville's appetite for household pets, some residents rose to his defence. By Sunday evening, a petition to spare his life was started and more than 230 signatures had been collected.

Ms. Bussin said she was glad to learn that Neville will live, and will likely be relocated to a zoo or rehabilitative area.

"I don't want to see it happen again, and the message to people is please do not feed the wildlife. People think they're doing the right thing, but in essence it really was jeopardizing the animal," she said.

Sean Maxwell, the owner of the chihuahua who fell victim to Neville, was less enthusiastic.

"I don't have a vendetta against [the coyote] or anything, I just don't want to see this happen to anyone else," he said.

I hope the coyote fares better than some others that have been trapped and relocated. I blogged about one in New York City who died in captivity, probably from mishandling.

I find coyotes as beautiful and fascinating as all canines. They are one of the most adaptable species on the planet. Even when they're killing dogs, I root for their survival.


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