A Fort Saskatchewan man is reminding trail users to keep their dogs on leash after his close encounter with some wildlife last week.
Jason Quaschnick was out for a run in the local river valley with his 100-pound German Shepherd-Collie cross, Alanis, last Thursday (Oct. 18). It was another routine morning outing for the avid trail runner.
Quaschnick was heading east, away from the West River’s Edge pavilion, with plans to leave the river valley by way of a well-used dirt hill, when Alanis started barking and pulling on her leash.
A coyote had emerged from the trees and caught the dog’s attention.
"It was kind of strange because I don't normally see coyotes come out like that,” Quaschnick said. “I run that whole area a lot.”
Quaschnick spotted some other coyotes hanging back in the trees -- he estimates there were about five of the animals -- before moving toward the coyote to scare it off.
“And then as I carried on, I stopped again and I was watching, and he was coming, following me.”
Quaschnick suspected the coyote was trying to lure Alanis away. If he had let Alanis go, he said, she probably would have chased after it.
“And I probably wouldn't have my dog right now."
Brendan Cox, spokesperson for Alberta Fish and Wildlife’s enforcement branch, said coyotes can see other dogs as a threat to their territory.
“It does sound like a territorial sort of encounter,” he said of Quaschnick’s experience. “Coyotes will sometimes try to lure a dog away so that they can ambush it with other coyotes.”
That kind of thing is rare, Cox added, saying that coyotes typically try to avoid humans.
Quaschnick posted to Facebook about the incident, concerned about the small dogs he sometimes sees walking off-leash in the river valley.
“They'd grab that dog and be gone before you'd have a chance to stop it," he said.
Cox echoes the leash recommendation, and also suggests trail users make noise as they go to alert any nearby wildlife. Anyone who does come across a territorial coyote should make the experience an unpleasant one for the animal, Cox said, by yelling or even throwing stones in its direction.
“Or if you have a walking stick for example, or something like that, ward it away with that. By making that experience unpleasant it teaches the coyote to stay away from humans."
Although last week's experience was a first for Quaschnick, he knows that coyotes are a normal part of the river valley.
"I don't think there's any reason to be afraid down there,” he said. “I think that as long as your dog is on a leash and you're walking tall with the dog, there's no reason for the dog to be in any trouble.”